Skip to main content

Full text of "Our southern birds"

See other formats




: sv 






Length 7*4 inches 







Copyrighted 1919 


National Book Company 


JAN 20 1919 

'wa \ 

An Introduction 

While the scientific study of birds is beyond most of 
us, yet an intimate understanding of them and their 
ways is within reach of everyone, and may enrich life 
with a new depth of interest. No line of study opens a 
more fascinating vista to the mind which wants to know, 
in the best and truest sense, in what kind of world we are 

Most nature study books are written for the latitude 
of New England. While the sub-tropical natural life 
of Florida has received considerable attention, it is a 
strange fact that for all its valuable and richly various 
fauna and flora the Middle Southern States have had 
few naturalists. The non-scientific student, in search of 
a popular work that will help him to some knowledge 
of birds in this section, is at a loss what to read. It is 
to help meet this need that the present volume has been 

Blank pages are provided for the recording of indi- 
vidual observations. With the exception of those few 
species which nest near our homes, comparatively little 
is known of the daily life and actions of birds. 

Go out alone in early morning, keep the sun at your 
back, be careful to do nothing that will startle these timid 
creatures, and see what you will see. Remember that 
you are dealing with the most sensitively organized of 
animals. Stand or sit quietly watching them; do not 
touch nest or eggs, as many species have so keen a scent 


that they will not return to a nest which has been in 
contact with a hand. 

Naturalists like John Burroughs are often said to 
possess some mysterious secret of attracting birds, or at 
least of dealing with them at close range. The secret is 
simply the avoidance of sudden movements. By keeping 
quiet you may induce such friendly birds as "Wrens, 
Chippies, and Titmice to perch on your arms and head 
and to eat from your hand. 

Experience is the only real teacher in this study. 
Patience and practice render the identification of birds 
easy. There is as much character in the voice and actions 
of a bird as there is in those of most people ; and we 
learn to recognize bird friends as readily as human ones, 
as they become familiar. Their rudimentary language, 
too, is easily learned; so that when one is accustomed 
to the vocal range of a pair it is easy to tell whether they 
are expressing alarm at the presence of an enemy, satis- 
faction over the fledglings in the nest, or triumph over 
the capture of food ; whether they are quarreling, making 
love, or conducting an ordinary business conversation. 
It should be kept in mind, however, that very careful 
observation is necessary before deciding on the identity 
of any bird not well and familiarly known to you. 

"When you come upon a new bird, therefore, try to 
describe it about as follows : 

About what size ? Compare with some familiar type 
as Crow, Robin, or Sparrow, or state length in inches. 

Describe bright colors or marks, if any. 

Shape and color of bill — a bird's most characteristic 


Marks — wing bars, eye ring, line through or over 
eye, white feathers in tail, etc. 

Notes and song — short or continuous ; loud or low, 

Is it on the ground or in trees ? in thicket, grass, or 
in the open? 

Does it walk or hop ? 

What is it eating? 

Is it alone, or in flocks, or with birds of other species ? 
About how many in a flock or group ? 

Where is it — in swamp, pasture, or woods, in the 
air, or by running water ? 

All notes should be dated. Having identified the 
bird, the next thing is to study its habits and peculiari- 
ties. A note book and pencil should be carried in the 
pocket for the immediate fixing of one's impressions. 
Immediate, because our memories are treacherous, and 
fifteen minutes' delay may give rise to errors in notes or 
markings, or confusion of two or more species seen at 
the same time. Afterward these notes may be entered 
in the blank pages of this book. 

A bare list of the birds found in your neighborhood, 
with dates, is well worth making. It is most interesting 
to make a special study of one bird at a time, filling the 
pages with little family histories. In March or April, 
watch the actions of some mated pair, and find out all 
you can about their home life. Some leading questions 
in this line of study might be : 

Where was the nest built? When begun? When 
completed ? Of what is it made ? 

Did the male bird or the female build it, or both ? 


When was the first egg laid ? the last ? 

Do both birds or only one incubate the eggs? 

How long before hatching? 

What food is brought to the young? 

How long do they remain in the nest? Do they 
return to it after once leaving ? 

How long are they fed before seeking their own 
living ? 

Do they remain with the parents until migration? 
The changes in plumage brought about by the juvenal 
and yearly molts are a puzzling factor in identification 
of birds, and one that makes the study of migration diffi- 
cult for the beginner. But the date of arrival in spring, 
and whether the birds come in flocks, pairs, or singly, or 
whether the males and females arrive in separate bands, 
are interesting points and easily noted. 

If the blank pages be filled out with these and similar 
data carefully made, the completed book will be valued 
for generations. 


Birds of the Year Round 


Junco 11 

White-breasted Nuthatch.. 13 

Red-breasted Nuthatch — 14 

Brown-headed Nuthatch... 15 

Tufted Titmouse 16 

Carolina Chickadee 18 

Carolina Wren 21 

Bewick's Wren 22 

Housewren 23 

Marsh Wren 24 

Cardinal 24 

Crow 27 

Raven 31 

Downy Woodpecker 32 

Hairy Woodpecker (Sap- 
sucker) 33 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker . . 35 

Red-headed Woodpecker. . 35 

Red-bellied Woodpecker. . . 37 

Red-cockaded Woodpecker 37 

Ivory-billed Woodpecker.. 37 

Pileated Woodpecker 38 

Flicker 40 

Screech Owl 41 

Barn Owl 44 


Great Horned Owl 45 

Kingfisher 45 

Wild Turkey 48 

Ruffed Grouse 50 

Bob-White 52 

Field Sparrow 54 

Henslow's Sparrow 56 

Pinewoods Sparrow 56 

Seaside Sparrow 57 

Sharptailed Sparrow 58 

English Sparrow 59 

Carolina. Dove (Mourning 

Dove) 61 

Ground Dove 65 

Gold Finch 65 

Robin 68 

Bluejay 71 

Meadowlark 73 

Loggerhead Shrike 

(Butcher Bird) 75 

Bluebird 78 

Towhee 80 

Purple Grackle 81 

Turkey Buzzard 82 

Sparrow Hawk 85 

Winter Visitors 

Brown Creeper 88 

Pine Finch or Siskin 89 

Crossbill 90 

Whitethroat Sparrow 91 

Seng Sparrow 94 

Savannah Sparrow 96 




Swamp Sparrow 97 

Grasshopper Sparrow 98 

Marsh Sparrow... 98 

Golden-crowned Kinglet... 98 


Ruby-crowned Kinglet 99 

Waxwing 99 

Hermit Thrush 101 

Summer Migrants 


Scarlet Tanager 103 

Summer Tanager 104 

Phoebe 105 

Wood Pewee ,. 107 

Crested Flycatcher 107 

Acadian Flycatcher 107 

Red-eyed Vireo 108 

Yellow-throated Vireo 110 

Mountain Solitary Vireo. . 110 

White-eyed Vireo Ill 

Bobolink :....... Ill 

Cowbird 113 

Mocking Bird 114 

Wood Thrush 118 

Veery 120 

Olive-backed Thrush. 121 

Brown Thrasher 121 

Catbird 124 

Indigo Bunting 127 

Chimney Swift 128 

Ruby-throated Humming 

Bird 130 

Whippoorwill 132 

ChuckwilPs Widow 133 

Nighthawk 135 

Redwinged Blackbird 136 

Purple Martin 138 

Barn Swallow 139 

Bank Swallow 139 


Kingbird 139 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ... 141 

Orchard Oriole 142 

Baltimore Oriole 142 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo 

(Raincrow) 143 

Black-billed Cuckoo 144 

Chipping Sparrow 147 

Yellow-breasted Chat 149 

Yellow Warbler 151 

Palm Warbler .152 

Prairie Warbler 152 

Black and White Creeping 

Warbler 153 

Hooded Warbler 155 

Tennessee Warbler 155 

Nashville Warbler 156 

Worm-eating Warbler 157 

Maryland Yellow Throat.. 157 

Parula Warbler 158 

Blaekburnian Warbler 159 

Black-throated Green 

Warbler 159 

Blue-winged Warbler 159 

Golden-winged Warbler... 159 

Bachman's Warbler 159 

Louisiana Water Thrush.. 159 

Prothonotary Warbler 160 

Swainson's Warbler 161 



Yellow-throated Warbler.. 162 

Sycamore Warbler 162 

Ovenbird 162 

Cairn's Warbler 163 

Chestnut-sided Warbler. . . 164 


Kentucky Warbler 165 

Pine Warbler 167 

Myrtle Warbler 167 

Yellow Palm Warbler 167 

Shadows of the Past 
Carolina Paroquet 169 Passenger Pigeon. 


jBird, M a P 









These are the "snowbirds" we all know so 
well, colored like "stormy sky above: 
covered earth below," as 
has been prettily said of 
them. A flock, appearing 
suddenly in a field or 
dooryard, may cover the 
ground for a time with 
little moving gray forms, 
busily picking and peck- 
ing for grass and weed 
seeds, then suddenly be 
gone. They are very 
sociable, quick to benefit 
by a handful of finely 
crumbled cornbread 
thrown onto the bare 
ground or a doorstep 
swept clean of snow, and will sit in the shrubbery 
of the lawn looking so plump and contented that 
we are glad to have them as guests. 



Length 6*4 inches 


The Junco's beak is like that of the Field 
Sparrow, broad and pinkish. There are two 
white feathers in the tail which form a bright V 
as the bird flits before yon into the nnderbrnsh. 

Many other small winter birds consort with 
Juncos in the friendliest way; yon may see them 
with Wrens, Song-sparrows, Titmice, Golden- 
crowned Kinglets, and Blnebirds, with perhaps 
a Nuthatch or a Downy Woodpecker, feeding all 
together in your dooryard, if you will take pains 
to spread a meal for them and keep cats at a 
distance. When you have finished with your 
walnuts, hickory nuts, or pecans, if you will 
throw the hulls out on the ground instead of 
burning them, you will find that all these birds 
and also the Cardinal will enjoy the waste bits 
of kernel which their sharp beaks can pick out. 

All winter long the Juncos are among our 
most plentiful and familiar birds; but with the 
warmth of March's sprouting days they "begin 
to drift northward, to nest in Canada and the 
extreme northern states, and we see no more 
of them until next October. But there is in 
the higher ranges of the southern Alleghenies a 
Carolina Junco, somewhat larger than the snow- 
bird and gray all over, who remains a resident 
through the year. If you go to the mountains 
for the summer, perhaps you will see him among 
the rhododendron. 


"Little snowbird in the tree," we used to 
sing when I was in the First Grade ; but the tree 
is not the place in which to look for Juncos. 
Not so energetic as the Titmouse nor so lively 
as the Wrens, not so prettily colored as the 
Kinglet, nor so acrobatic as the Chickadee, these 
plump, quiet little fellows are as welcome winter 
companions as any that habitually come around 
our homes. Their pleasant twitter and chirp is 
never an obtrusive sound, and their clear brown 
eyes have always an expression of innocent 
friendliness, nearly like that of Doves. 


"Yank-yank! yank-yank!" Here he comes, 
head downward as usual, looking all over the 
bark with his sharp eyes, pecking into crevices 
with his sharp beak. Round and round the tree 
he goes, circling some of the larger limbs, easily 
taking all the attitudes of a fly on the ceiling. 
What a neatly tailored appearance he makes in 
his slate-gray close-fitting suit, with its pearly 
vest and black markings, cut so squarely short 
across the tail. 

The name of Nuthatch means that he will 
wedge small nuts, such as beechnuts or chestnuts, 
or large seeds like those of the sunflower, into 
cracks in the bark, and hammer away at them 
till he splits them open — a clever trick which 



few other birds seem to have learned. He is 
also called Devil Downhead and other odd names 
in reference to his upside-down way of searching 

for insect food. 

He is not at all shy, and 
will come to the very door- 
step to eat cornbread-crambs 
and grain. In winter he may 
even venture into the resi- 
dence districts of towns, 
where he runs over the trees 
in lawns and yards ; but with 
the approach of warm 
weather he becomes less fa- 
miliar, and is not often seen 
after the beginning of the 
nesting season. His home is 
hard to find; it is tucked 
away in a hollow limb, soft- 
ened with dead leaves and 
lined with feathers. 

The Eed - breasted Nut- 
hatch is one of our winter 
visitors, but goes north with 
the coming of warm days. 

The little Brown-headed Nuthatch is a feature 
of the great Southern pinewoods. He gathers 
his food chiefly among the smaller branches, but 
carries it to the main trunk and wedges it firmly 



Length 6 inches 



between the scales of pine bark, to be eaten at 
his leisure. The nest is made of grasses and 
lined softly with feathers, generally placed near 
the ground in a hole in a tree or stump. With 
the coming of spring, even so early as the first 
warm days of March, five or six pretty spotted 
eggs are laid. 

All these Nut- 
hatches are surpris- 
ing cortortionists. 
Owing to his fear- 
lessness and to the 
conspicuous clearness 
of his markings, the 
White - breasted 
is easiest to observe. 
You may see him 
during the winter in 
the suburbs of south- 
ern towns, and no bird's movements are more 
interesting to watch than his reversals, Sittings, 
and gyrations. His compact little body seems to 
be fitted with some kind of universal joint which 
enables him to take positions which would be 
impossible to any other bird. He is not sociably 
inclined; but if you will follow his softly nasal 
cry of "yank-yank, yank, yank," through the 
woods you will often find Chickadees or a Tit- 
mouse with him, apparently following him too. 


Length 4^4 inches 




This vigorous little fellow makes up in con- 
spicuous voice and action for the modest ashen 
smoothness of his coloring. His rousing "peeto, 
peeto, peeto" may be heard on any still winter 
morning. He is full of pranks and quite intrepid, 
so that curiosity often brings him into porches 

and out-buildings where, 
if not protected, he falls 
an easy victim to the cat. 
His nest is deep in 
some abandoned Wood- 
pecker's hole or hollow 
limb, and soft with 
crushed dry oak-galls of 
last year, with sedge- 
grass down, and hair 
picked up around barns and stables, or even 
pulled out of the backs of cows in the pasture. 

One spring day I was lying on a cot out of 
doors, when a Titmouse came into the porch 
where I was and began to explore nooks and 
crannies. I " froze," as it is well to do when a 
bird comes near, and lay watching him as he 
poked about the rungs of a chair and the cracks 
of the balusters ; but what was my surprise when 
he hopped up on my pillow and began to examine 
my head! I dared not move; I heard his light 

Length 6 inches 


feet tapping all round my ears ; he tweaked once 
or twice at my hair, chirped, and then actually 
jumped on my head and with claw T s and beak 
went to work in earnest! 

This treatment was too vigorous for an 
ordinary human scalp to endure long at one time, 
but before I was obliged to drive him away he 
called to his mate with incisive chirruping to 
come and see what he had found. She soon 
answered, and came tripping sidewise along a 
drooping pine bough to within a few feet, but 
would not venture closer. From the tone of her 
replies I take it that she scarcely liked the looks 
of the strange object on which he was standing. 

"Why didn't you catch it?" at this point 
inquires nearly every child to whom I tell this 
story. But why should I have wished to catch 
him? I could not have kept him; I couldn't pos- 
sibly have made him happy, and he would have 
been too frightened and miserable to make me 
happy. Even if I had only held him a few sec- 
onds and then set him free, he would never have 
come back again. 

As it was, he did come back in a day or two, 
to find me sitting in a chair. Without hesitation 
he climbed up my back and began on my head 
as before, standing braced by his tail feathers 
against my ear ^ and working away with loud 
chirps of excitement. 


He seemed delighted with his discovery of 
this source of hair; although he never carried 
much away, he enjoyed playing with it. Since I 
occupied the porch most of the time and warned 
others not to frighten him, he returned again 
and again to peck at one scalp or another, to 
everybody's good pleasure. Thinking to oblige 
him I fastened wisps and combings in convenient 
crevices, but though he sometimes pulled at these 
in passing he never took them away. Appar- 
ently he preferred his goods in the original pack- 
age. I noticed that while perched on some one's 
head he seemed at times to be overcome with 
surprise at realizing his unusual position, and 
would look around at us with a startled expres- 
sion, erecting his crest, which nearly caused us 
all to burst out laughing. But I am glad to say 
his confidence was never betrayed; his visits 
continued until the building period was over, 
when doubtless family cares claimed all his time 
and attention. 


Smaller and shyer than the Chickadee of New 
England states, our Carolina thumbkin neverthe- 
less brightens the winter landscape with busy, 
capricious flutterings and constant chirping in 
much the same way. His wing feathers are not 
edged with white, and his "tsic-a-de-de-de-de" 


is softer than that of the bird of Emerson's 
poem ; but his courage in enduring cheerfully the 
hardships of winter deserves all the praise that 
has been pretty generally heaped on his northern 

His coat is all gray, with a black cap and 
cravat. No bird is livelier or more agile than 
this wee fellow, as he flits among the branches, 
searching every twig for tiny insects and the 
eggs and larvae of insects which larger birds 
have overlooked, picking, pecking, boring, flut- 
tering, standing upside down and peering into 
chinks, squeaking "suippit, suippit," and from 
time to time calling "tsic-a-de-de-de." Besides 
this he has a spring song of four smooth whist- 
ling notes of equal value, "I'm — here — to — 
stay," and other chuckling or scolding notes. It 
has been estimated that one of these tiny helpers 
of ours consumes from two hundred to five hun- 
dred small insects daily, or up to 4,000 eggs of 
insects, and even more when the young Chicks 
are to be fed. 

The nest is a cosy affair, no bigger than the 
hollow of your hand, tucked into a stump or an 
empty woodpecker's hole. It cradles perhaps six 
white eggs specked a little with brown. 

It used to puzzle me that such tiny bodies 
could contain enough warmth and vital energy 
to defy cheerfully the fiercest weather. I believe, 



they are aided by their sociable way of cuddling 
together, a number of them finding shelter in a 
hollow limb. There they remain, fluffed out into 
little gray puff-balls with toes hidden in their 
feathers, no doubt holding each other's courage 
up as w r ell as assisting each other to keep warm, 
through storms and freezing nights and the long 
imprisonment of sleet which is so trying to birds 
of all kinds ; but with the first morning on which 
the w T ind does not blow too hard they are out 
long before sunrise, calling brightly to each 
other over the snow, busy and merry as only 
birds can be. 

What becomes of Chickadees 
in summer? This question is 
often asked by observant country 
people who spend most of their 
time about dooryards, orchards, 
and fields. I have even heard a 
superstitious old fellow declare 
that with the coming of warm 
weather these birds take to 



Length 4y 2 inches 


the water and are changed into frogs! But 
the summer disappearance of the Chickadee is 
no mystery to be accounted for by fables ; he has 
simply retired to the woods, together with the 
Nuthatch and Titmouse, where you may see them 
among the green treetops if you look closely, 
until the retirement of the migratory birds and 
the winter scarcity of food brings them round 
our homes again. 


This is our most constant if not our most elo- 
quent singer. In all months and all weathers we 
are awakened early by the bell-like jingle of 
"Percedar, percedar, percedar, perceet!" or 
"Jubilee, jubilee, jubilee !" which may be an- 
swered from a little distance by "Sweetheart, 
sweetheart, sweetheart!" The merriest, sauci- 
est, busiest little creatures are all our Wrens, 
as friendly as they are excitable. They all carry 
a nervous, jerky tail straight up over the back, 
and all have a voice and a spirit that seem too 
large for such tiny bodies. They are perhaps the 
only species smaller than the English sparrows 
determined enough to hold their own among 
those noisy bullies so as to nest in the back yards 
and suburban spaces of town. For this reason 
if no other, we are bound to keep a particularly 
affectionate spot in our memories for the brown 



bright Wrens, and to help them by guarding 
their nests and by throwing out cracked nuts for 
them to peck at in snowy weather. 

Last summer a pair of Bewick's Wrens built 
their big, loose nest in the underpinning of my 
tent floor. For weeks they came and went all 
day long; after the young were hatched they 
stopped on every trip to sing, with a happy little 

flutter of wings and tail, a 
triumphal carol over the 
mouthful brought. Such a 
celebration when the fledg- 
lings quit the nest — such 
urging, such coaxing and 
scolding of the reluctant 
youngsters, and what burst- 
ing every minute into loud, 
excited song! 

A pair of House Wrens 
also perched on the canvas 
of mornings, and a short, perky, jerky Winter 
Wren, later in the year, was pleased to explore 
a broken stump near by. The Bewick's Wrens 
and the Carolina Wren several times ventured 
into the tent, probably by mistake, when I was 
studying quietly. It was interesting to note that 
while others might forget the w T ay out and go 
into a panic, the Carolina Wren behaved like 
one sure of his welcome, now examining every 


Length 5 inches 



object on the table, and now hopping across the 
floor in pursuit of a spicier. 

The song of the House Wren sounds like "I 
see a man up a trrreee," in clear trilled notes 
like rippling water; the Bewick's is similar in 
quality, but differs in the arrangement of the 

All three of the commoner Wrens make them- 
selves very much at home about 
dwellings and outbuildings ; one 
even hears a Wren sing in an 
empty room, sometimes, with 
startling loudness and clear- 
ness. They all expend a great 
deal of fussy energy in the 
business of building; the nest 
is a large mass of grasses, dry 
oak tassels, trash of all kinds, 
feathers and hair and string. 
It may be placed in shelves, 
eaves, bird boxes, and even in tin cans. One I 
knew in a paper bag, forgotten on the shelf of 
an outhouse ; one in an old garden sprinkler ; and 
one which I keep in a box to itself was built in 
the rolled-up fold of a tent. It is quite arched 
over, with the entrance at one side. One dainty, 
freckled tail feather from a summer molt lies 
inside it, — a souvenir of the proprietor — which 
I would not think of removing. 

Length 4% inches 


This habit of building in all sorts of odd 
places makes the Wren a veritable tricksy Puck 
to superstitious people who think it is "bad 
luck" if a bird builds in one's clothes. I have 
seen strong men turn pale and tremble on dis- 
covering a Wren's nest in some forgotten pocket 
or shoe! 

Marsh Wrens, both the Long-billed and the 
Short-billed varieties, are found in brushy places 
near the water. Like other Wrens, they carry 
their tails erect and all their movements are 
rather jerky. But their nests are peculiar — 
globular affairs woven of grasses, entered from 
the side, and laced tight to the criss-crossed 
stems of reeds or other undergrowth. The eggs 
of the Long-billed are almost chocolate brown in 
color; but those of the Short-billed are pure 


In all the world there is nothing braver than 
the heart of a singing bird. Can you think what 
it means to be so small and so beautiful in a 
world full of guns and traps, of cats and hawks, 
of crafty snakes and crows and squirrels and 
blue jays all of whom rob the nest, — and yet to 
sing and sing again that all nature is good, is 
good ! 

Of all the birds who endure our winters with 
their inevitable hardships and perils of storm, 


cold, and hunger, none is so beautiful as the 
Cardinal, and probably none is so much sought 
after by enemies of all kinds. His color is con- 
spicuous as an electric spark, flashing alike in 
contrast to snow, to the green of summer, the 
gray of winter, or the gloom of the cedars in 
which he delights to dwell. 

His song is no less attractive than his plu- 
mage, — that keen whip-like whistle of "Woit, 
woit, ten, ten, ten; woit ten; whittoo whittoo 
whittoo. Whip! woiche woiche woiche woiche." 
A friend of mine and his declares that he sits 
by the road on rainy mornings when the children 
are going by to school, and delivers a timely 
warning of "Wet shoes, wet, wet, wet, wet 

There is something gracious and lofty in the 
very bearing of the Cardinal, as if he could not 
stoop to do a mean or discourteous thing; and 
in this his disposition bears out his appearance. 
He is a kind and praiseworthy consort, very 
attentive to his olive-colored mate, who sings 
nearly as well as he. He guards and protects 
her and their brood, and does his full share of 
the labor of rearing the young. 

Formerly many of these valuable birds were 
caged and sent out of the country every year, 
and many more were stuffed to meet some peo- 
ple's strange ideas of ornament; but the laws 





Length 9 inches 


CROW 27 

that exist for their protection in almost every 
Southern state are now being enforced more 
strictly. It is to be hoped the day is not far 
distant when the Cardinal shall build his one, 
two, or even three nests a season in our door- 
yard cedars undisturbed, and take shelter from 
blizzards in our barn lofts unmolested; when his 
long confidence and helpfulness shall at last be 
met by the response of human friendship and 

The beautiful and noble Eosebreasted Gros- 
beak, which the Middle West prizes as adjutant 
to the farmer because he eats potato bugs, is a 
near kinsman of our Cardinal. His range begins 
about where the Cardinal's comes to an end. 
But he does not try to bear the pinch of winter; 
and during his period of migration in early April 
he sometimes rests for a few days in the south- 
ern mountains, and tries over for us the rich, 
sweet, rolling warble that is his spring song. 


Have you ever watched a flock of Crows feed- 
ing over a field? How glossy is their plumage, 
how lofty their port ! They bear themselves like 
born aristocrats, lords of the soil; the flirt of a 
Crow's wings and tail is like the gesture with 
which a cavalier should toss back his velvet cape 
from the hilt of his sword. The Crow has dig- 



nity without strutting, and shrewdness without 
sneaking. I have no hesitation in calling him 
the most intelligent bird I know. Few are the 
planters whose strategy he cannot outwit; few 
the hunters who can slip upon him. But though 
he has all the destructive and mischievous habits 
of the Blue jay, except that he does not attack 
smaller birds, and though he is in addition an 

accomplished corn - thief, 
we, all of us, retain a cer- 
tain respect and something 
like admiration for Jim 

Crows of one kind and 
another are well distrib- 
uted over the world; they 
survive in great numbers 
the Eussian winters and 
the famines of India. This 
proves them to be a type of 
special fitness, highly successful in nature's com- 
petitive economical scheme. Their success in 
thriving where others fail is due not only to indi- 
vidual intelligence, but to their close co-operation 
with each other. Every member of a flock is able 
to communicate with and to aid every other mem- 
ber. If you try to slip up on them unawares you 
will see how quickly the first that spies you gives 
the alarm; and if you do not believe that Crows 


Length 19 inches 

CROW 20 

have a sort of language, notice what a different 
note is sounded to warn the flock of a man with 
a gun — different from, say, the note that tells 
of a child aimlessly crossing their feeding- 

Can crows be taught to talk, parrot fashion? 
As a child, I knew a pet crow whose ingenuity 
in mischief seemed an uncanny thing. He stole 
and hoarded numbers of small objects such as 
pencils and thimbles. I remember the dismay 
of an old lady whose gold spectacles he carried 
to the top of a tall tree, and the frantic efforts 
of the family to coax him down without damage 
to the lens. He also hid a tiny doll that was one 
of my own particular treasures, and remodelled 
it to his liking by biting off the hands and feet. 
After such a performance it seemed to me only 
natural that his cleverness should extend to the 
pronunciation of five or six words. But a wider 
acquaintance w x ith Crows has since led me to 
question whether, among so great a variety of 
noises and squawks and caws, a few do not 
inevitably happen to sound like words. In any 
case the splitting of the tongue never helped a 
Crow or any other creature to "talk"; it is a 
wholly unnecessary piece of cruelty. 

Whether Crow r s have the parrot faculty of 
imitating sounds of speech or not, it is certain 
that they have a greater range of signals and 


communication-sounds of their own than other 
birds. Like Kipling's Marines, they think for 
themselves and they steal for themselves, and 
they never ask what's to do. Out of the stark, 
comfortless fields of winter 'or out of the snowy 
forest he wrings a living by dint of sheer clever- 
ness and skill, with a facility that recalls another 
of Kipling's lines — "Yon can leave 'im at night 
on a bald man's 'ead, to paddle 'is own canoe!" 
Bare indeed is the glistening expanse of snow 
above which he cannot find a morsel — a chestnut 
forgotten in its burr, a chinquapin, a pod of field- 
peas missed by the last gleaner, or an unwary 
fieldmouse that has ventured too far from home. 

But whether employing his talents in mis- 
chief, in noisy treetop caucuses, or in the winter 
search for food in which success is life or death 
to him, the Crow comforts himself with a queer 
sardonic nonchalance worthy of an Indian's dig- 
nity. Buccaneer of the crop and pirate of the 
nest although he be, his numbers are no longer 
so formidable as they were a generation ago, 
and he remains a feature of our native landscape 
that could not well be spared. 

No nestlings are noisier than young Crows; 
they do not seem to care who knows the location 
of their great brushy nest — and indeed it would 
be hard to conceal that bushel of crooked twigs, 
conspicuous in a treetop. Their feeding- time is 


proclaimed to all the surrounding woods as 
clearly as if they rang a dinner bell. 


Larger and shyer than the Crow, the Raven 
is never seen in flocks, nor about farms, but 
keeps to the heavily wooded mountains. He is 
glossy black from beak to tail, with steel-blue 
glints of light ; the 
feathers of his neck are 
long and pointed, instead 
of being round like the 
Crow's. Whether perch- 
ing or in flight his mo- 
tions are all slow and 
stately. A handsome 
bird, with a peculiar raven 

p n . i j t Length 25 inches 

grace 01 his own; but I 

do not know of a harsher, more disagreeable voice 
in the woods than the guttural "cr-r-r-cruck" 
or the hoarse, half-strangled scream he gives 
forth by way of welcoming the spring or making 
love to his lady; it seems that if he could only 
keep silent, he might make a better impression. 
These birds not only mate for life, but return 
to the same nest in a tree or a ledge of some 
mountain cliff, year after year. It is a well- 
shaped nest, not loose like the Crow's, but com- 
pact of sticks and lined with grasses, sometimes 


softened with wool picked up in tufts where a 
flock of sheep have rambled through the bushes. 
Every season before the two to seven greenish 
eggs are laid, this nest is made softer and deeper 
by the addition of new material. 


Smallest of all our feathered carpenters is 
Downy, and clothed in the true Woodpecker uni- 
form of black and white, with a scarlet spot on 

the crown of the male. 
He is quite tame; one 
often finds him chisel- 
ing away with his little 
pickaxe on trees but a 
few feet from the door ; 
and he is a frequent 
downy woodpecker guest at the feeding 

Length 6 inches ^^ ^^ g() many 

people are now keeping up for our winter birds. 
In summer the Downy Woodpecker is often- 
est seen in the cornfield. I was visiting one sum- 
mer at a farmhouse where the corn grew right 
up to the doors, when the owner interrupted our 
talk to get his gun, saying he must shoot that 
bird that was riddling his crop. Quickly I 
handed him my opera-glass instead, telling him 
to watch the bird a moment. As he did so his 
features changed with surprise. Lowering the 



glass lie cried: "Well, now, don't that beat you 
— I saw him catch a worm!" For some time 
he continued watching the woodpecker's progress 
from one ripening ear to another, studying the 
preliminary tap- tap 
which, like a doctor's 
stethoscope, locates a 
cavity, and the final ac- 
curate drive in upon the 
worm which eats the 
milky grains. By the 
time Downy flew out of 
the field with a joyous 
thanksong of i ' peenk- 
peenk-peenk, " the gun 
was forg-otten, the man 
convinced; and I think 
there is one farmer 
who will never again be 
so foolish as to make 
war on one of his ablest 

Like all Woodpeck- 
ers, Downy is fond of showing his mate what a 
fine drummer he is; and indeed the amount of 
resonance the little fellow can bring out of a 
dead tree is enough to make anybody wonder. 

The Hairy Woodpecker (nine inches) is 
larger than Downy, and shyer, keeping to the 

Length 9 inches 


woods; Both are sometimes called "checker- 
back" by those who have not learned to dis- 
tinguish the difference. Their pretty, glossy 
white eggs are laid in holes which they have been 
at pains to dig out with their energetic little 
chisels, holes carefully rounded and deeply hol- 
lowed, and softened with fine chippings. When 
one sees the frailty of other nests and their fre- 
quent exposure to severe weather, one wonders 
if young Vireos and Buntings do not envy the 
cosily housed young Woodpeckers and their well- 
protected mother. 


It is said that this bright-colored Woodpecker 
injures fruit trees by boring through the bark to 
get at the sap. This is a much-discussed point 
in ornithological circles, which we shall be safe 
in setting down as not proven. I have never 
seen an orchard tree really damaged in this way ; 
and by following the Sap sucker and watching 
him you may see for yourself that he chops out 
and eats borers, worms, and other troublesome 
insects as do other Woodpeckers — a habit which 
renders actual service to the tree. So suppose 
we do not condemn the Sapsucker too hastily. 

He is certainly a great drinker of sap, espe- 
cially from sweet-flavored trees like the birch. 
His habit is to drill holes in regular row on row, 



and to return in a few days to find them flowing, 
or possibly inhabited by insects which he finds 
edible. Many creatures come to drink at the tiny 
sap-wells when he has thus drilled through the 
bark; not only insects, but 
certain smaller birds, and 
even squirrels. The latter j\ 
are said sometimes to be- 
come oddly intoxicated on 
the sweet juices fermented 
by the sun. 

The Sapsucker's voice is 
not pleasant, being louder 
and harsher than that of 
the Downy and Hairy Wood- 
peckers ' ; his notes are 
somewhat like the scream of 
the Jay. The nest is usu- 
ally high off the ground in a 
cavity in a tree about as large as that of the 
Hairy Woodpecker. Sapsuckers do not nest so 
early as the great handsome Pileated birds, but 
the eggs are nearly twice as many, laid in May, 
after the warm weather has really come. 


On the hill where I live are five different 
kinds of Woodpeckers : the Downy, the Hairy, 
the Bedhead, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and 



Length &y 2 inches 



even a splendid pair of Pileated which have so 
far escaped the persecution of hunters. They 
are all more or less red-headed, at least the 
males of each species having a scarlet patch on 

the crown. But the bright- 
est colored and noisiest, as 
alas ! the most mischievous 
of all, is Redhead himself. 
His mischief is confined 
chiefly to the robbing of 
other birds' nests, but 
whether by this or by his 
scolding, quarrelsome ways, 
he has given all his kin a 
bad name. 

Redhead is the most bril- 
liantly colored creature in 
our winter landscape, and 
flies boldly about our lawns 
and fields without fearing 
to display his colors or to 
sound his loud cries, some- 
times scolding pointedly at 
a dog or a person who seems to him to be tres- 
passing on his domain. His home is worth 
climbing up to see; the safest, most comfortable 
nest, one would say, in the whole bird kingdom. 
Its entrance is perfectly circular as if marked 
out with a compass; in the bottom, on a bed of 

Length 9 % inches 


sawdust and chips, are half a dozen or so of 
glossy white eggs. One large dead pine I know 
of has more than a dozen such round holes in 
its trunk ; perhaps the same pair of Woodpeckers 
have built there season after season. 

Bedhead has the name of being destructive; 
and like Jays and Crows, he will rifle the nests 
of smaller birds. But his fare and habits change 
with the season. In winter beach nuts are 
greatly favored, and in summer he hunts fruit 
and insects. 

The feet of all our Woodpeckers have two 
toes pointing forward and two back. Were our 
schoolboys equipped with such stout climbers, no 
pecan-tree in the land could withhold its nuts. 

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is also common 
in the Southern states, and the Red-cockaded is 
found in the pine woods. But the largest and 
most beautiful Woodpecker of all, the Ivory- 
billed, is now extinct in the United States, except 
in a few counties in Florida. 


Next to the beautiful Ivory-billed, w T hich is 
now all but extinct in the United States, the 
Pileated Woodpecker is largest of the Wood- 
pecker family found in this country, being nearly 
if not quite as large as a Crow. Its usual cry 
is a "cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk" similar to the note of a 



scared domestic pullet, which cry has given this 
bird in the mountains the name of Wood-hen. 
It is also known as Logcock and Cock-of-the- 


In some ways it 
resembles the common 
Flicker; it has a simi- 
lar long, strong, barbed 
tongue, and when two 
individuals of the spe- 
cies meet they utter a 
Flicker - like conversa- 
tional note of "wi- 
chew" or "wiek-y-up." 
The food of this 
handsome Woodpecker 
consists mainly of 
grubs, wood-boring 
beetles, and ants that 
make their homes in 
dead w r ood. To obtain 
a meal he chips aw T ay 
on log or tree with sur- 
prising skill and force, flinging good-sized chips 
and splinters in every direction. But he does 
not confine himself to dead or rotten trees for 
woodcutters' work; he is quite likely to exca- 
vate a hole for a sleeping-chamber in the hard 
wood of a living tree. 

Length 17 inches 


The Pileated Woodpecker mates very early in 
spring, and the pair spend about a month in 
digging out the nest cavity. Both birds work at 
this important task, and after the glossy white 
eggs are laid they share the duty of incubation. 
It is said, that when the bird on the nest wishes 
to go out for food and exercise it will call the 
mate, and wait until its coming before quitting 
the eggs. They like to return to the same spot 
year after year, never using the same nest a 
second time, but digging another as near as con- 
venient, so that an old tree may show a number 
of Woodpecker-holes, each as circular as if it 
had been bored. The abandoned nests are 
greatly in demand among smaller birds who nest 
in hollow wood, and even as nests for squirrels. 

This Woodpecker is not so common as in 
former years. It does not like cut-over wood- 
lands, nor the open pine-barrens of the sandy 
country. .One must go to the hammocks of Flor- 
ida or to the primeval woods of the southern 
Alleghenies to find them still plentiful. Their 
black and white markings and the big flaming 
head-tuft, vivid in the green shadow, are too 
good a field-mark to be missed even by a care- 
less eye. 




To call over the many names by which this 
bird is known in different parts of the country is 
to suggest a number of his most striking char- 
acteristics — High-hole ; Yellow-hammer ; Ground 
Woodpecker; Yarrup; Golden- 
winged Woodpecker, etc. Of 
all these the last is perhaps 
most descriptive, for his wings 
are indeed lined with yellow 
satin, and the larger quills are 
bright as gold. All his mark- 
ings are showy ; the red crown- 
patch, the black cravat and 
moustache, the gay polka-dot 
vest and the barred brown 

His saucy calls and cries 
are as various as his names, 
and every country boy or girl 
knows them. But not every 
one knows of his curious 
tongue, twice as long as the bill and hard- 
pointed, which he uses in extracting grubs and 
other denizens of deep crevices and holes. He 
visits the ground much oftener than other Wood- 
peckers, and picks up great numbers of ants. 
The nest, like that of other Woodpeckers, is 

Length 13 inches 


commonly a hole in a tree, but the Yellowham- 
mer is not averse to occupying a ready-made 
dwelling and will even thank you for a bird-box 
of convenient size. 

Although often seen on the ground its feet 
are like all Woodpeckers' feet, adapted for cling- 
ing erect against tree-trunks, with two toes be- 
fore and two behind. 


Can you think why the eggs of birds who nest 
in the open are usually colored or speckled, while 
those laid in a deep or hidden and more or less 
dark place are commonly pure white? Can you 
find a reason for the difference in the shape of 
the eggs — those of sea-fowl who lay on flat 
ledges of rock being of a long, almost cone-like 
oval; those in cup-shaped nests being oval or 
elliptical ; and those placed in deep hollows some- 
times quite round? Try to roll some cone-shaped 
object, as a thimble or a tumbler, along the floor, 
and a reason may suggest itself to you. 

Anyway, our little Owl is hatched from a 
pure white, globular egg, in a hollow tree nest 
so deep and dark that the twin treasures cannot 
roll out nor be seen by passing enemies. There 
are two white, downy young. Sometimes this 
inoffensive little home occupies an angle of the 
rafters in an unfrequented barn or cabin loft. 



Length 9 inches 


Some haunt of night-like shadows it is sure to 
be, for the Owl's eyes are so made that while he 
can see well with almost no light and is free and 
happy under the moon, he is dazzled by sun- 
shine and does not like to stir abroad by day. 

Owls are the only birds who can look at an 
object with both eyes at once. The eyes are fixed 
in the sockets so that the head must be turned to 
face whatever the Owl wishes to look at. 

Another peculiarity is the foot, of which two 
toes are normally placed in front and two behind. 
The outer toe is opposable, like a thumb, and can 
be brought round to the front. 

They are also the only birds who have an 
external ear — not the upstanding feather tufts 
we call "horns," but real folds of flesh hidden 
under the feathers, and serving, like the ears of 
mammals, to catch the vibrations of sound and 
turn them inward. The hearing of all Owds is 
very acute. The softest slither of a bat's wing 
on the leaves, the slightest scratch of a field 
mouse's claws at the roots of a tree, and down 
comes little Screech Owl like the drop of a velvet 
cloth to seize his supper. He eats mice, some 
insects, small birds, frogs, and lizards. When not 
too large this prey is swallowed entire. After- 
ward the bones, hair, and other indigestible parts 
are ejected, rolled up in a ball that looks like 
some strange cocoon. 


He has two color phases, a reddish brown and 
a gray, which he wears without respect to age, 
sex, or season. The best time to watch for him 
is at dusk, when he comes out to flit soundlessly 
from tree to tree: for he remains unseen and 
unseeing by day, and during the night it is our 
eyes which are blind and cannot see him. 

The well-known cry of the Screech Owl is so 
mournful a sound that many people do not like 
to hear it. But we may at least be sure that this 
uncanny tremolo represents nothing like sadness 
in the mood of the producer ; he is never so happy 
as when crooning to his mate or to the friendly 
moon. I am for letting him enjoy himself in his 
own peculiar way. At the worst, it resembles 
that of certain of our own poets and novelists 
who express themselves best in most doleful 
themes, yet on acquaintance are found to be the 
jolliest optimists alive. 

Negroes often heat a poker in the fire, and 
people with recollections of the witchcraft delu- 
sion sometimes tie knots in a sheet, to conjure 
the little Owl and stop his quavering cry. But 
is it not much better to conjure away one's 
groundless dislike and terror of so harmless a 
creature by a closer acquaintance with its inter- 
esting ways? 

. Other Owls of the region are the large Barn 
Owl with its curious ape-like face, and the Great 


Horned Owl who cries "Whoo, whoo, who — who 
— w ] 10 — aw " across the frosty hush of winter 
nights, or as schoolboys translate it, "Who — 
cooks — for you — all, for you — all?" 

It is not quite true that Owls cannot see in 
daytime. The Great Horned Owl and some other 
species, when they have young to feed, come out 
and hunt on dark, cloudy days. It is chiefly these 
birds whom we have to thank that the meadow- 
mice, which multiply very rapidly, do not become 
so numerous as to destroy all our grain in the 
stack, and our young fruit trees. 


He sits on a dead branch above a pond, creek, 
or river, noticing neither bird nor insect, but 
watching, watching silently for a glint of silver- 
sides in the water below. Suddenly down he 
darts, like the head of a spear ; there is a splash, 
and a second later up he comes with his dinner. 

The ancients called him halcyon, and hung his 
dried body to the boat's mast when they cruised 
about the Mediterranean, because he was sup- 
posed to bring calm and pleasant weather. We 
still retain an echo of this lost belief in the 
phrase "halcyon days." 

He is always a pleasant picture in his blue- 
gray speckled coat, with prominent crest and 
belt, sitting just above the green rushes, reeds, 



Length 13 inches 


and lilies of the shore. But his voice is enough 
to startle the nerves of the hardiest; his harsh 
rattling cry can be heard for half a mile up or 
down stream. Although only thirteen inches long 
he appears larger, because of his short tail and 
stout, top-heavy body. 

A stout little fellow he has need to be, for his 
nest is at the end of a passage dug two or three 
feet back into a sand bank. Here is a chamber 
large enough for the mother bird — queenfisher, 
shall we say? : — to turn around in, and a curious 
bed of — fishbones ! A most uncomfortable pallet 
on the floor we should find it, and a malodorous 
bedroom ; but we may be sure it exactly meets the 
liking of the young Kingfishers. 

In order that the pair may not find all this 
excavation too onerous a task, the Kingfisher's 
two outer toes on each foot are joined together 
for most of their length, to form a sort of shovel. 
Like the Woodpeckers, these birds like to return 
to the same place year after year, but they 
always drill a new nest-cavity. 

This fisherman does not seize his catch in 
claws or beak like a bird of prey, but impales it 
on his sharp beak by darting upon it with closed 
wings through the water, like the fishing-spear of 
an Indian. Having caught his dinner he carries 
it to his perch ashore, turns the head toward 
him, and swallows it whole. Fish of a surprising 


size can go down in this manner, but frogs, cray- 
fish, and some aquatic insects are also eaten. 
The scales, fins, bones, and other indigestible 
portions are afterward cast up in pellets, as is 
the custom with Owls. 

Minnows and suckers, and other small fish of 
no special value, are those most frequently taken 
by the Kingfisher along the streams and rivers 
which are his usual home. But on the shores of 
trout streams or of artificial lakes which are 
stocked with valuable fish he is considered quite 
a nuisance, and for this reason is not protected 
by law. 

In spite of this his brilliant color and unusual 
shape, his interesting ways and good disposition, 
make him one of our most attractive and best 
known birds. Kingfishers have always been 
favorites with all peoples the world over; and 
even hunters and fishermen are not eager to take 
a shot at them. 


Any one who has followed the trail of the 
turkey through its native woods, or who has made 
the acquaintance of some lustrous purple-legged 
baron hatched from a wild egg and raised in a 
poultry yard, will not grudge this species the 
phrase that has often been applied to it — 
"noblest of American birds." An appreciative 


Southern writer, Mr. Lanier, once suggested that 
the Wild Turkey would be a better choice for 
adoption as our national emblem, instead of the 
rapacious and quarrelsome Eagle; but, however 
suitable to American ideals and character this 
change might be, it is not likely to take place, for 
the reason that this splendid game bird is being 
killed off at a rate that insures its disappearance 
from all but the wildest parts of its range. In 
short, the Wild Turkey will probably be nearly 
extinct before the general public becomes ac- 
quainted with him. 

In past years one might come upon these 
birds feeding over burnt areas of woodland, 
picking up acorns and insects from the ground; 
or one might hear the early morning gobbling 
of the male at a favored roost, or the plaintive 
kyonck-kyonck of the female. I have surprised 
a whole family of the young poults walking 
together in a quiet thicket, slipping away like 
shadows as soon as my presence was known to 
them. The wild gobblers even used to visit the 
range of domestic poultry and consort with them. 
But only the wariest mountain hunters, or those 
in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, 
and the wildest parts of the Southern Alle- 
ghenies, can boast of seeing them in recent times. 

In their habits, the turkeys of the deep forest 
are not very different from those of the barn- 


yard. They live in bands of from twelve to 
twenty, feeding together by day upon nuts and 
acorns, and flying up into a chosen roost-tree at 
night. At the beginning of the breeding season, 
however, these flocks disband, and the males 
begin to gobble as they seek their mates. The 
sound of their gobbling is usually heard early iji 
the morning; it is associated in my memory with 
perfumed banks of azalea bloom dripping with 

At this season the great gobblers rustle stiffly 
about, displaying their plumes, and often fight to 
see which shall be leader of a flock of admiring 
hens. As soon, however, as those same hens are 
safely retired to the secret places of the under- 
brush, each with her precious clutch of freckled 
eggs, the males forget their differences and go 
foraging amicably together, leaving the hens to 
bring up the new broods. But if young Wild 
Turkey poults are as difficult to rear safely as 
those of the domestic species, one wonders that 
among so many enemies, rainstorms, and other 
mischances, the most careful mothering ever en- 
ables a family to grow up. 


In former years on a tramp through the 
mountain woods one was quite likely to be 
startled by the sudden whirr of this bird's sud- 


den rise. Or one might come upon a rounded 
hollow beside a log where the wild hen had been 
taking a dust bath; or would hear, from the 
dense laurel, the male's remarkable drumming, 
— thump, thump, thump, thump-thump-thump 
flllllump. This sound is produced by striking the 
air with the short, stiff, concave wings, much as 
a rooster flaps his wings before crowing. Al- 
though a stump or log is almost always chosen 
for a drumming-place, the w x ood is not struck 
during this performance, neither is the bird's 
own body. Like the hollow noise made by the 
Mghthawk in diving through the air, the boom 
or thump is produced by the wings alone. 

But rare indeed is the luck of seeing or even 
hearing a Grouse at the present day. This 
superb game bird is the particular delight of 
hunters; and as it relies mostly on protective 
coloring for safety and cannot make long flights, 
but in the hunter's phraseology "lies well to a 
dog," most records of this Grouse over its entire 
range read "formerly very common," — a tragic 
phrase occurring all too often in the history of 
American bird life. 

This bird is miscalled "pheasant" through 
much of its territory, and in New England is 
known as "partridge." 

The nest, under a brushpile or at the base of 
a tree, is very much like a small domestic hen's, 


and apt to be as full of eggs. The young are 
hatched thickly covered with down and striped 
on head and back like Brown Leghorn chicks. 
They are able to run about and scratch the day 
after they quit the shell. A pretty sight, but one 
rarely seen, for like young Bob-Whites they 
squat and hide at the first alarm, and do not 
come out until their mother warns them that all 
is safe again. Meantime she falls and flutters 
and pleads and pretends, using every device to 
draw attention from the precious brood. 

They roost in evergreen thickets, and live in 
summer on insects and berries. In winter the 
little partridge-berry vine spreads them a meal 
along the banks of rocky streams, but when the 
snow covers these there are still catkins, and 
buds, and the bitter scarlet berries of the holly. 


Every girl has found the nest, or walked into 
the midst of a newly hatched brood that disap- 
peared in a twinkling under the smallest sticks 
and leaves. Every boy has whistled to spring 
woods and fields to bring the ready answer, 
"Bob White! Bob White!" and the inquiring 
"scatter-call" of "Whitie? Whitie?" 

Not much of a song it seems, but we may all 
be glad that Bob White is now classed as a song- 
bird and placed under government protection. 



He is more to be valued as an ally of the farmer 
than as a game bird, although, like chickens, he 
eats pretty much everything edible. He likes to 
run through wheat or cowpeas, gleaning; but his 
services in making away with the pestiferous 
cotton boll weevil and 
other harmful insects 
more than pay his keep. 
In other ways, too, 
the Bob - Whites are 
rather like barn-yard 
chickens, being scratch- 
ers. They herd to- 
gether when the pair- 
ing season ends, and 
they share each other's 
nests. Ten or fifteen 
eggs is quite enough 
for one pair of such 
short wings to cover, 
but where several of 
these little hens occupy 
one nest, the number 
may reach two or three 
dozen. The young also resemble Bantam chicks, 
downy, brown-striped; they are what is called 
praecocial, that is, precocious children, able to 
run about and scratch the day after they pip 
the shell. But the male Bob-White could teach 


Length 10 inches 


Chantecler a lesson; he makes himself useful 
as a husband and father, helping to incubate the 
eggs and care for the young. 

The experiment is often tried of hatching 
Bob-White eggs under a domestic hen, but I have 
never seen it succeed; the attentions of so heavy 
and clumsy a foster-mother is sure to trample the 
life out of the little ones. It is said, besides, that 
although young Bob-Whites are quick to scatter 
and hide at the warning sounded when a hawk or 
other danger is nigh, they will not rejoin a 
mother who cannot give the return call of 
"Whitie, Whitie," and so wander off and are 

In winter Bob-Whites are found in bevies, fre- 
quenting thickets and bottom lands. At this 
season they eat a great many of the pretty part- 
ridge-berries that grow in rocky woods on a little 
vine, with buds and berries of all sorts. They 
sleep on the ground, tail to tail in a close circle, 
with heads pointing outward, in small open 
places among bushes or tufts of grass. 


With the exception of the noisy, bullying 
English Sparrow, all our Sparrows are innocent, 
friendly, useful little birds. None are of brilliant 
plumage, but some are very pleasing songsters. 
Of them all none is prettier in ways and coloring 



than the Field Sparrow, whose bright pale brown 
flocks like brushy pastures best, but are common 
in fields and gardens in late summer. Their 
usefulness is evident in autumn and winter as 

Length 5% inches 

they drift through wayside weed patches, peck- 
ing away at seeds that left to themselves would 
produce an abnormally troublesome crop next 
year. The young are reared chiefly on even more 
troublesome insect pests. Their nest is on the 
ground or in low bushes, a frail structure of fine 


Lucy Larcom, who wrote so tenderly of birds 
and flowers, has left us this pretty verse about 
the Field Sparrow: 

"One syllable, clear and soft 

As a raindrop's silvery patter, 
Or a tinkling fairy-bell, heard aloft 

In the midst of the merry chatter 
Of robin and linnet and wren and jay, — 

One syllable oft repeated: 
He has but a word to say, 

And of that he will not be cheated. ' ' 

A pinkish bill and rather paler coloring dis- 
tinguish this Sparrow from others resident in 
the Southern states, as the Henslow and Pine- 
woods Sparrows, which are not so common. 
Henslow may be known by an olive green head 
striped with black; he is seen most often in old 
sedge-grass fields. The Pinewoods Sparrow 
makes his home among pines and under scrub 
palmettos, and even in summer does not venture 
far north of Georgia. It is a famous songster, 
said by some authorities to equal even the Thrush 
in quality of tone. 

All our native Sparrows inhabit fields, plains, 
and marshes, where their brownish streaks and 
markings render them inconspicuous among the 
usual growth. The various species are often dif- 
ficult to distinguish at first; but so much indi- 



viduality have they that once their acquaintance 
is made you can never mistake a Field Sparrow 
for a Chippy, or a Fox for a Whitethroat. Their 
attitudes, motions, and bearing are all different, 
in spite of the similarity of markings and color- 

Length 5 inches 

ing. The many varieties well repay our attention 
and study, for no large family of birds is more 
amiable or of more helpful service than that of 
our native Sparrows. 


All along the Atlantic seaboard we may find 
this a common Sparrow, and though its flocks 
winter south of Virginia and return northward 
in spring, yet enough of their number remain 


along the Southern coast during the nesting sea- 
son so that we may fairly write the Seaside 
Sparrow as a permanent resident. Without defi- 
nite coloring or markings, they live so well hid- 
den that one seldom realizes how plentiful they 
are. It is only w r hen disturbed that they take 
flight and are plainly visible. For the most part 
they run like mice among the grasses, faintly 
chirping, sharing their salt marsh or creek with 
Savannah and Swamp Sparrows, busily feeding 
on "sand fleas" under the drift cast up by the 
tide, and on the seeds of weeds, and marsh in- 
sects, and now and then mounting a tall reed or 
a bush to deliver the four or five notes that make 
up their only musical effort. 

The nest is woven of seaweed and marsh 
grass, attached to the grass stalks a little above 
ground, and sometimes arched and roofed over 
with dry seaweed. 

Rather more noticeably marked but identical 
in habits is the Sharp-tailed Sparrow, who fre- 
quents the same salt meadows and streams 
emptying into the ocean. His narrow tail quills 
are sharply pointed, hence the name. 

The nest is very similar to that of the last, 
but for it a drier site is commonly chosen, in a 
tussock of grass, or in the drift and seaweed cast 
up by the tide along the shore. The greenish 
white eggs, specked with brown, look precisely 


alike in the nests of both species, and the squeaky 
little voices of both birds are indistinguishable. 
We have to examine the tail feathers, and look 
for a small bright yellow spot before the eyes to 
be sure that it is a Sharp-tailed Sparrow. 


It is easy to understand how the original mis- 
take came to be made, in 1851 and 1852, of intro- 
ducing this bird of the Old World among Ameri- 
can species; but why, oh, why need the same 
error have been repeated 
recently in the case of the 
Starling? It is always a 
risk to disturb the nat- 
ural balance of animal 

life by transferring a spe- "^English sparrow 
cies from its native conti- Lensth 6% inches 

nent to another. To be sure, the introduction of 
reindeer into Newfoundland has by all accounts 
worked well; but the reindeer is a domestic ani- 
mal directly under man's control; whereas for 
one such success there are several disastrous 
experiments on record, such as the importation 
of rabbits into Australia, and that of the mon- 
goose into Jamaica. 

Usually a species so introduced into a foreign 
country fails in some respect to wholly adapt 
itself to the new habitat, and soon dies out of 


the locality, to be heard of there no more. But 
occasionally it happens that the alien species 
being superior in adaptability makes haste to 
adjust itself, and being hardy, thrifty, and of 
rapid breeding tendencies, manages to over-live 
the native species, and even to drive them out as 
the white man over-lived and drove out the 

Many of our most troublesome weeds, coming 
originally from Europe, have out-done even the 
commonest American vegetation in this way. 
But the most notorious example of this sort of 
error is the English Sparrow. 

Few birds in the world are more unlovely or 
less generally useful than this dirty, noisy, quar- 
relsome little street gamin. By those who 
brought the first pairs across the Atlantic it was 
supposed that this Sparrow would be of service 
in clearing village streets of insect life; but his 
appetite proved to be appreciative of pretty 
much everything, including sprouting suburban 
gardens and stores of grain. So long as the 
nuisance was confined to towns and cities, where 
a certain amount of noise and dirt seems inevit- 
able anyway, no alarm was felt. But they are no 
longer confined to towns or even to suburbs. The 
terrible fitness, the all-conquering adaptability of 
this Sparrow extends itself to all but the prime- 
val forest. 


English Sparrows can make a nest of any 
available material in any available place, and a 
living where other birds would starve. They do 
not, as is sometimes said, fight away other birds ; 
they have no need to do so. It is only necessary 
for them to take possession of all nesting sites 
in advance of others. Rapid multiplication does 
the rest. Changes in environment do not disturb 
them; accidents to the nest are mere episodes of 
the season, since they rear several broods in suc- 
cession, and if one mate is killed, its survivor 
immediately finds another; and they are undis- 
mayed by our most rigorous weather. 

The most remote settlements and even coun- 
try homes are no longer safe from invasion. 
Only the sparsely inhabited mountains and Trop- 
ical Florida are free from this pest, and it may 
be only a question of time and further settlement 
till they too shall be colonized. Sparrow traps 
do much to mitigate the annoyance, but we may 
never again hope to hear around our homes the 
true chorus of native songsters undisturbed by 
the loud, harsh Sparrow chirping. 


A boy once told me that '-every dove has one 
drop of human blood in its body, and if you kill 
one it'll haunt you." Such a superstition must 
have come, I think, from the tender expression 




of the dove's eyes and the meekness of its bear- 
ing. And though all false beliefs are hurtful, I 
could almost wish that this one might be gener- 
ally taught and encouraged, if it might be a 
means of ending the slaughter of this useful and 
lovely bird throughout the Southern states. 

Doves are most frequently seen walking — 
walking, not hopping, with their round smooth 
heads bobbing prettily at every step — in open 
woods or fields and along country roads. Every- 
where and always they are occupied in looking 
for weed seed. Each single dove will eat, in the 
course of the autumn and winter, a quantity of 
the seed of noxious weeds that saves man or boy 
days and days of back-breaking labor in the field 
and garden next year. The dove has been for 
centuries admired as the world's type of inno- 
cence and gentleness ; but few even of those who 
love these birds best have realized how great a 
help their work is to that of cultivators. 

Many Southern boys hail the slow, sweet coo- 
ing of the Dove in March as the signal for taking 
off shoes and stockings, just as European peasant 
children listen for the call of the old-world 
Cuckoo. But careful elders should warn them 
that March is unsafe for barefoot-time, although 
we are too far south to follow Poor Richard's 
New England rule, "Change not a clout till May 
be out." Perhaps it would be better to take the 


arrival of the Chat or the Thrush as the signal 
for barefeet, instead of listening to one so reck- 
less of untimely frosts as our friendly Dove. 

The nest is loosely and carelessly woven of 
sticks laid in the fork of a tree, scarcely pro- 
tecting the two white eggs, which sometimes fall 
out. The young, like those of all doves and 
pigeons, are fed by regurgitation, that is, with 
predigested food from the crops of both parents. 
Their tender, naked bodies cannot be very com- 
fortable or even safe in such a rudely con- 
structed lattice-work of twigs, but they have the 
gentlest care and brooding. Two or three broods 
are raised in a season. 

Doves, like others of the Pigeon family, are 
believed to mate for life. Their lover-like ways 
and refined manners are very pleasing to watch, 
as they walk about in pairs during the nesting 
season. Usually they go in pairs, or in small 
flocks, and never nest in colonies as did the 
Passenger Pigeon. For this reason it will prob- 
ably never be exterminated like its ill-fated rela- 
tive. While in some localities they have become 
rarer than we could wish," owing to excessive per- 
secution by hunters, their name has now been 
removed from the game list and their numbers 
allowed a gradual increase. 

On the wing, like most Doves and Pigeons, 
the Carolina Dove is a strong and swift flier, but 


on the ground the short legs and pretty, rosy 
feet can take only mincing steps. Another pecu- 
liarity which it shares with this whole family 
of birds is the ability to drink without raising 
the head to swallow as other birds are obliged to 
do. The Dove's beak is immersed and the bird 
drinks as steadily and deeply as a horse. They 
sometimes nest miles from water, and early in 
the morning fly in pairs or in small companies 
to the nearest drinking-place, cleaving the air 
like bullets with whistling wings over your still 
sleepy head. 

A pretty little Ground Dove, not much larger 
than a Sparrow, is not uncommon in the Gulf 
States and is sometimes found as far north as 
the Carolinas. It frequents old fields, swamps, 
and pine barrens, and builds a nest on the 
ground or in a bush, laying two pure white eggs. 
It is rather darker and browner in color than 
the larger Dove, and its red beak and pink breast 
feathers distinguish it clearly. 


Which is bird and which is blossom, as they 
flutter over the sunflower whose broad bosom is 
so generously filled with ripening seeds? Black 
and gold could not be more vivid: I have actu- 
ally seen a big bumblebee deceived by it into 
flying at a Goldfinch, who drew daintily back and 



Length 5^ inches 


regarded the blundering intruder as if wishing 
to tell him he was "as crazy as he looked." 
But the bright canary-like yellow of the male 
Goldfinch's summer plumage is molted in au- 
tumn, and for the rest of the year he is dull- 
colored like the female. 

Their food is chiefly of seeds, lettuce seeds 
being so favored that they are sometimes called 
Lettuce-birds, and for a similar reason Thistle- 
birds; but plant-lice and other small insects are 
also eaten. 

The song is quite canary-like, but softer, with 
a variety of pretty chirps and trills. On the 
wing, their undulating course is punctuated by 
a twitter described by the mountain people as 
"Meat's cheaper — meat's cheaper"; and there 
is also a call-note, "te-zwee-ee? te-zwee?" with 
rising inflection. 

The nest is very pretty, made of grass and 
plant fibres and lined with thistle down. It is 
often placed in alders or other thick waterside 
growth. There are from three to six pale blue 
eggs. The nesting time is delayed beyond that 
of most of our small birds, as late as June or 
even July. 

During the winter, when most of our gay 
song birds have deserted us, we are often glad- 
dened by a bright cluster of clear twittering 
notes, falling as it were out of the sky, where 


these Goldfinches seem to be bounding along with 
the motion of sea waves. Many are the dainty 
pictures of Goldfinch life that come readily to 
mind — a Goldfinch and his mate on the tassels 
of a summer cornfield; a Goldfinch making his 
exquisite toilet on a bean vine just outside my 
window before sunrise, on several mornings in 
succession; Goldfinches on the thistles or the wild 
lettuce of an old field, pecking seeds; a male 
bright as a flower, hopping alone among the gar- 
den beds; Goldfinches swaying on the slender 
culms of nearly ripened oats, picking out the 
milky grains; a single beauty .on the top twig 
of a peach tree, standing on his head to strip it 
of sap-sucking aphides, and righting himself to 
sing like a Canary between mouthfuls. Our 
whole year would lose a jewel if this bright com- 
pany should leave us by any ill chance; they 
enrich and gladden the days of every season. 


In Tennessee and southward we hardly know 
the Eobin as a spring songster; he is more con- 
spicuous as a winter visitor, appearing in flocks 
that come and go erratically over their feeding 
grounds. The Robin resident from Georgia to 
the Carolinas is less vividly colored than the 
normal type, and is usually written as a separate 
species — the Southern Robin. 


Until recently many have been killed for food, 
although there can be scarcely three bites of 
meat on bones so delicate; but the Government 
has now taken the Robin under its protection, 
making the killing of one a misdemeanor. It is 
to be hoped that this course will result in the 
return of large numbers of these birds to their 
wonted habitat ; for not only are the few cherries 
and strawberries which they eat paid for many 
times over by the amount of noxious insect life 
they remove, but the Rob- 
in's song and presence is 
a flash of joy we could ill 

What an active, glad- 
some, vigorous fellow he 
is, and how clearly and 
fully he expresses all his <^r~ 

feelings in his various robin 

. -it r. / P Length 10 inches 

notes. No refinement 01 

musical culture, such as graces his kinsmen the 
Thrushes, belongs to him, no elegance of gentle 
manners ; we might say that the Wood Thrush is 
a violinist to whose recitals we listen in admira- 
tion, and Robin is a fiddler to whose jolly strains 
we may dance with glee. His notes ring with 
positive gladness; his every motion is decided 
and free, his bearing alert and open; his presence 
dominates the lawn or orchard. 


His nest, like his erect carriage, shows that 
he is not the Eedbreast of England, but a true 
Thrush. It looks like a big, careless, dirty 
Thrush's nest, being plastered with a cup-like 
shell of mud, and often saddled on a bough in 
the same way. But it is either less skillfully 
made, or else Eobin has not so much discretion 
and judgment in placing it as have his woodland 
cousins; for a rainstorm is likely to crumble its 
wall and mash it out of its moorings — a dis- 
aster which I have never known to come upon a 

And Eobin has a wider range of nesting sites 
to choose from, too; he may tuck his cradle into 
the angle of a barn's eaves, or any odd nook 
about the farm, for he is a friendly fellow, as 
we all know. And however his hearty, happy- 
go-lucky ways endear him to us, it seems a pity 
he cannot exercise some of the usual Thrush wis- 
dom in his architectural affairs. 

An old nest in my possession is made chiefly 
of quantities of crab-grass and small twigs in a 
bulky mass, woven outside with yards and yards 
of string, and scraps of rag and paper. There is 
the usual shell of hardened mud, lined with root- 

Four eggs of the famous blue are laid, and if 
the nest proves safe and satisfactory, a second 
brood may be reared in it. 


The food of Robins includes a great variety 
of insects, and earthworms pulled from the sod; 
the berries of the China tree, holly, and mistle- 
toe; wild cherries, as well as those of the or- 
chard; service-berries, and dogwood, cedar and 
sumach berries. 


Fine feathers, even in two shades of steel- 
bright blue with white borders, do not make a 
fine bird of this crafty robber of nests. His 
voice betrays him with its screeching "whongee, 
whongee, jay! jay! jay! hit 'm a lick, hit ? im a 
lick ! ' ' Undeniably he has his own place in crea- 
tion, and fills his own sphere of usefulness; but 
it is not in the vicinity of our homes, where the 
gentler songbirds are more to be desired. 

He is accused of murderous attacks on smaller 
birds, and certainly eats both eggs and young 
when he can find an unguarded nest; but he is 
rather cowardly. I have seen a pair of Red-- 
eyed Vireos, defending their home, put a pair of 
these noisy bullies to flight. 

Jays are almost as destructive as their cous- 
ins the Crows, and have the same love of teasing 
and scolding. A gang of them will sometimes 
discover the daytime retreat of an inoffensive 
Screech Owl and tease and chase him from one 
tree to another with malicious glee, as Crows 




Length 11 y 2 inches 


enjoy driving and teasing a Hawk. They arc 
like Crows, too, in the amount of noise they make 
about the business of nesting and feeding the 
young. Never again will a pair of Jays be 
allowed to nest near one dwelling! 

Besides animal food Jays eat seeds, and are 
ever in search of small nuts and acorns, of which 
they hide away a surplus for future use. 

The nest is bulky and brushy, usually placed 
in a stout crotch of a wide spreading tree rather 
high overhead. Four to six grayish eggs, spotted 
with brown, are laid. The young birds' first 
feathers come in brightly blue, like those of the 

Emerson, alone I believe among observers, 
declares that the Blue Jay does "more good than 
harm." But when I see a whole neighborhood 
of song-birds silenced and terrorized by the pass- 
ing of a troop of these feathered Uhlans, I can 
only wonder what reason the philosopher had 
for his statement. Perhaps he thought of the 
flash of color which these bold .azure wings add 
to our dun landscape after most bright-colored 
birds have followed the sun southward. 


Was it not a Meadowlark who, in the fable, 
postponed moving her nest fledglings while the 
farmer sent requests for friends and neighbors 


to help him, but so soon as he took up the sickle 
himself fled at once, convinced that reaping 
would now actually begin? Not so wise as all 

Length 10% inches 

this, but still very well acquainted with the ways 
of harvests and fields is our friend of the open 
as we know him, — flying up before our feet with 
a sputtering note of alarm, only to drop out of 
sight in the deep grass as a stone drops into a 
pool; or showing his bright yellow breast and 
black V-shaped collar from the top of a stump 
or fence-post; or fifing "spring o' the year — 


spring o' the year" from a tree. Like many 
other species, these birds are partially migratory 
in the latitude of severe winters, but resident 

Meadowlarks build their nests on the ground, 
and really build it, too, usually arching it over. 
This structure shelters from three to five eggs, 
specked with brown. 

Boys with guns used to consider the Meadow- 
lark a game bird; but the Federal migratory 
birds laws have put an end to this over most of 
the country, and boys with kodaks and field- 
glasses are getting a more real and lasting enjoy- 
ment out of him today. 

These "fiel'-larks," as they are commonly 
called in the country, are not really larks at all, 
but are related to the Orioles and Blackbirds. 
In winter their flocks may be commonly found 
over river-bottoms and in marshy places, and 
when made bold by the hungry season, they ven- 
ture sometimes to glean in the very barnyard 
with the chickens. 


Why Loggerhead I have never learned, but he 
is well called the Butcher-bird; and handsome as 
he is not many of us really like him. He is so 
useful that the Federal migratory bird laws pro- 
tect him, along with all other perching birds 


whose food consists chiefly of insects. But when 
beetles, lizards, grasshoppers, and field-mice fail, 
the Shrike makes a prey of small birds; and it 
makes one shudder to see a bonny Warbler or 
Kinglet impaled on a thorn or on the barbs of a 
wire fence. 

The habit of thus impaling its victims, as a 
butcher hangs quarters of beef on his hooks, 


Length 9 inches 

seems at first a needless and wanton mutilation, 
but there is a reason for it. The feet of a 
Shrike are not formed with talons, like those of 
a bird of prey, but are the slim and clasping 
claws of a perching bird. Hence in order to hold 
his meat while tearing it to pieces, he pins it 
fast with a thorn. 

He is no singer, but can only whistle and 


squawk. The nest of the pair is usually well 
hidden in thickets or bushes, with from five to 
seven grayish, spotted eggs to guard. 

In October Shrikes get together as do the 
Mockingbirds, in small bands, though they are 
not wholly migratory. The sight of half a dozen 
or more of these handsome birds sitting on a 
tree in the morning autumn sunshine is worth 
getting out of doors early to see. 

This Shrike furnishes an interesting example 
of nature's fine and accurate adjustment of the 
balance between different forms of life. He kills 
small birds in as spectacular and cruel a manner 
as do some so-called sportsmen, it is true; but 
in a quieter way he is efficient in keeping down 
two of the worst enemies the birds have, — 
snakes and field-mice. For some of the small 
snakes he picks up might certainly grow into 
large ones from which even a Woodpecker's hole 
affords no protection to young birds; and as to 
field-mice, they are so fond of the tidbit of a 
bird's egg that I often wonder how a pair of 
Meadowlarks or Ground Warblers ever guard 
their family to the time of hatching. Logger- 
head is a terror to a flock of innocent Field 
Sparrows; they cry out and flutter away for 
their lives at his descent. But perhaps he is 
their benefactor in default of other protection — 
as the robber barons of the Middle Ages were 



tolerated and supported, because they main- 
tained the public roads. 


To the New England states, where the ma- 
jority of American natural histories are written, 
the Bluebird is a summer visitor, hence it has 
become well known over the United States as the 

harbinger of spring ; 
but throughout the 
southern winter home 
its soft contralto 
"dearie, dearie" may 
be heard in mild 
weather at any time of 
year. A wintry road- 
side may be suddenly 
illumined by the de- 
scent of a dozen Blue- 
bird s on a sumach 
bush, or a pokeweed in 
late summer may be laid flat under the weight of 
a flock coming to eat the purple berries. 

A gentler, more amiable deportment than 
that of the Bluebird can not be found. Their 
pretty sky-colored eggs are often laid in the hol- 
lows of old gate-posts or appletrees, for they keep 
up some sort of companionship with man and 
prefer to nest on farms or near dwellings. 


Length 7 inches 


During the bitter winter of 1895 most of them 
were killed through this part of the country and 
farther north; their frozen bodies were picked 
up where they had fallen from starvation, along 
roads and in fields, while many being too ex- 
hausted for flight fell easy victims to hawks, cats, 
and other natural enemies. Other species also 
suffered, but it was not until about 1900 that the 
Bluebirds reappeared in anything like their for- 
mer numbers. They were so greatly missed that 
during this period many people resolved hence- 
forth to keep feeding-stations replenished during 
snowy weather, that such a calamity might not 
occur again. For this bird's disposition is as 
celestial as its coloring, and he is as welcome to 
everyone as he is familiar to most. 

Dusky blue and bronze in winter, the feathers 
become brighter in the spring molt; the breast 
is then colored like new plowed earth in the "old 
red hills of Georgia," and the back and wings of 
the male a rich blue, like a fallen fragment of 
the middle sky, whereas the color of the female 
is less vivid. The Bluebird is often confused 
with the Indigo Bunting, but may be distin- 
guished by the rusty-red breast and by the beak, 
which is narrow and black, while the other is a 
true Finch, with beak conical and thick and col- 
ored like the feathers. 




Sometimes this bird is called Ground Eobin; 
the spirited, erect carriage and handsome black- 
and-chestnut coloring remind us of the Eobin 's. 
In the southern mountains he is known as the 
"Joree bird," from one of his loud, ringing 
calls; farther north he is called "chewink," from 

another call. 

Towhees are fre- 
quenters of brush 
piles and brier 
patches, where they 
roost at night and 
scratch among the 
leaves like chickens 
in the daytime. The 
vivid black and white 
of the male, with 
chestnut sides, is 
easily seen, but the brown female is hardly to be 
distinguished from the ground. There are more 
of them with us in winter than in summer, be- 
cause they are partially migratory, those that 
live in the Northern states coming south to spend 
the winter. 

The nest is usually on the ground, but is 
sometimes set up in a low bush. It contains four 
or five white eggs dotted over with reddish 


Length 8 inches 


brown, and is so well hidden among dead leaves 
and colorless debris of last year's weeds that one 
must be careful not to set a heedless foot upon it. 
The Towhee flies low, and keeps to the under- 
brush of swampy glades and bushy old fields. 
Among the dead leaves and grass he finds his 
food of earthworms and larvae, taking also some 
ripe berries in season. 


This Blackbird is with the Southern states a 
permanent resident, though their immense flocks 
in the March and September migrations are the 
most impressive thing about Blackbirds else- 
where. Alas for the cornfield on which such a 
flock descends ! This bird is also known as Corn- 
thief, though in some sections of the country it 
lives mainly on grasshoppers. He is disliked 
also on account of his robberies of other birds' 

Never was made a more earnest effort to sing 
than a flock of Blackbirds settled on a field or 
hillside in spring, and never was a more ludi- 
crous failure than the storm of twitterings, 
whistles, wheezes, and squeaks that arise from 
such a chorus. 

Against the unattractiveness and the glaring 
faults of Blackbirds, Crows, and Ravens, it must 
be set down to their credit that they are all 


devoted lovers and of a domestic faithfulness 
that is admirable. The nest of the Purple 
Grackle is built in the treetops, usually in a 
neighborhood of dozens of such nests. It is made 
of sticks, bark, and grasses, interwoven instead 
of being loosely laid like the Crow's, and lined 
with mud. The eggs vary greatly in color and 


Over all the country the Vultures are given 
credit for their good w r ork as scavengers. No- 
body is allowed by law to molest them, and no- 
body wishes to do so. Every one realizes that a 
Vulture is worth more living than dead. The 
birds seem to know of this widespread public 
sentiment in their favor, and in many Southern 
towns will come into the very streets to feed. 

The soaring and circling of these birds is a 
conspicuous feature of the Southern landscape. 
A more lofty and perfect expression of the 
poetry of motion is hard to imagine, short of 
the wheeling of spheres in the planetary system. 
They seem to circle slowly round some invisible 
aerial center, without apparent motion of the 
large outspread wings, upheld by some mighty 
natural force and impelled and guided only by 
wish or will. Such effortless grace, such ample, 
free, deliberate progression is hardly found else- 




where in the animal kingdom, — even the eagle 
does once in a while bethink himself of a neces- 
sity for haste. 

Once on the ground, however, the Turkey 
Vulture becomes the ridiculous "OP Mis' Buz- 
zard'' of Uncle Remus, awkward and bald- 
headed, an offense to sight and to another sense. 

Except during the nesting season, Vultures 
usually resort to a common roost at night. The 
cliffs along the brow of Southern mountains, 
and the brakes of creeks, harbor a great many. 
The large, brown-spotted eggs are laid on some 
safe ledge in these bluffs, or in a cave, or, in a 
region where great rocks are lacking, either in a 
hollow log or tree, or even on the ground under 
a log. The young are covered with grayish dow^n 
and are helpless for a long time. 

Another Vulture quite as common in the 
South is the Black Vulture or Carrion Crow, a 
smaller bird, with shorter wings that are not all 
black, but glisten silvery on the underside. The 
heads of both birds are naked, but the Buzzard's 
is red — "where Brer Eabbit shoveled hot coals 
upon it," according to Uncle Remus — while that 
of the Carrion Crow is black. Neither bird has 
a voice, except for the utterance of a low grunt- 
ing or hissing sound when disturbed. 



"Wild as a Hawk" is a common and highly 
expressive phrase. It is not to be wondered at 
that this group of swift, beautiful, and valuable 
birds should live in terror of the approach of 
man; for is not every man's hand against them? 
In spite of the fact that only two of our common 
Hawks habitually prey upon poultry, every hawk 
is in popular speech a "Chicken Hawk" and so 
to be killed on sight. It is strange that the 
scavenger value of the related family of Vultures 
should be so widely recognized and these birds 
generally protected, while the no less useful work 
of the Hawks in keeping down meadow mice, 
grasshoppers, and other mischievous pests is 
passed without appreciation. 

Smallest of Falcons is the pretty Sparrow 
Hawk, scarcely larger than a robin. Its name 
belies its usual occupation to some extent, for 
while its appearance strikes terror to the hearts 
of small birds and sends them into hiding, an 
examination of the stomachs of many of these 
little Hawks gave a result of far more fur than 
feathers — indicating a decided preference for 
field-mice. A great many of the larger kinds of 
insects are also eaten. 

The Sparrow Hawk nests on cliffs or in trees, 
but seldom builds for itself, preferring to lay 



Length 10 inches 


its brown-spotted eggs on the ground, in the top 
of a broken-off tree trunk or a cavity, or in a 
deserted crow's nest, freshly lined with finer 
twigs or bark. 

This little fellow's eyesight, like that of other 
Hawks, is very keen, and its adjustment wonder- 
ful. For instance, he may be sailing high over- 
head, crying "killy — killy — killy," but the 
movement of a tiny mouse or lizard on the 
ground does not escape him. Then in the instant 
of his downward pounce, his eyes have changed 
their focus so that it requires a swift and clever 
mouse to get away. His usual manner of taking 
his prey is, however, to dart upon it from a hedge 
or bush. 

All hawks feed upon meat, some catching in- 
sects, snails, frogs, snakes, lizards, and rabbits, 
small rodents in plenty, and even fish. The 
Eough-legged and the Broad-winged Hawks do 
not eat birds or poultry at all. It is a pity to 
make the whole tribe suffer for the sins of a few ; 
and a great mistake is made by any community 
which puts a bounty on the heads of its birds of 



A regular winter visitor is this busy worker, 
moth-like in his quiet ways and in the velvet 
softness of his mottled markings who never in 
daylight ceases his searching scrutiny of the 
bark of trees. How many small insects he picks 
up, what quantities of tiny eggs and larvae, who 
can say! His bright eyes seem to see nothing 
farther away than the trunk to which he clings; 
his sharp beak, curved like a surgeon's needle, 
goes into the smallest cranny; his claws bear him 
steadily up the bole, helped by the brace of the 
stiff, pointed tail feathers. So closely is the 
body flattened that it seems like a bit of the bark 
itself that is moving, — moving upward, not 
down, for, unlike the Nuthatch, the Brown 
Creeper works from the roots up. Unlike the 
Nuthatch again, he seems to pay little attention 
to even the larger boughs, and never descends 
to the ground or mingles with other birds in 

Just a solitary worker, colorless, and song- 
less, but so busy as to be happy among us during 
all the frozen months; and no doubt the pretty 
nest which he hides behind a piece of loosened 




bark or in a hollow of some Canadian timber is 
the crown of the year to him as much as to the 
most vociferous songster, and the full recom- 
pense of all his work. 


When a flock of Siskins settles on a pine on 
a winter day, it is as if the sombre, dusky tree 
burst into bloom, suddenly alive and all 
astir, with half concealed movements and 
chirpings. Little fluttering wings, thin 
as paper, and bright 
weightless bodies glide 
and dart capriciously 
over the bark and twigs ; 
every brown cone has 
its bird, standing up- 
side down to reach be- 
tween the scales for 
the seed. They 
are not confined to 
pines, however, but 
visit other trees 
for the sake of 
buds, of which they 
eat a great many. 
They also flutter 
down to the roadside for the seeds of goldenrod 
and weeds. 

Length 5 inches 



Pine Siskins are often mistaken for Gold- 
finches in winter plumage, but are not quite so 
bright-colored and have not the clear voice of the 
Goldfinch, although their twittering song is very 
pretty. They come to us only in winter, nesting 
north of the United States. 


These curious Finches rove the country 
erratically, in gypsy bands, so that while they 
appear on the outskirts of our cities every win- 


Length 6 inches 

ter, it is always a surprise to meet them. Their 
coloring, dull-red in the male and mottled olive 
and yellow in the female, with their interesting 
Parrot-like movements, makes them worth seek- 
ing among the pine trees; and they are tame 


enough to allow close observation. They cling to 
the cones on which they feed, exchanging a short 
whistled call-note, and sending a shower of scales 
and broken cones down through the branches, for 
they can strip a cone with those crossed man- 
dibles as quickly as you could do it with your 
fingers. Like Waxwings, they often take wing 
in a group without apparent reason, and circle 
gracefully round to return to the same tree, in 
their undulating flight uttering a flute-like whis- 
tle. There is also a pleasant little song. 

The Crossbill flocks appear to nest wherever 
they find themselves in early spring, often when 
far south of their usual range, but always in 
coniferous trees. 

Another bird of eccentric gypsy habits, whose 
roving bands may be encountered in winter, is 
the Purple Finch. He is not really purple, but a 
dull rosy red with Sparrow-like markings, as if a 
brown Sparrow had been dipped in grape juice. 
A fine singer in his own range, he is seldom or 
never heard here, leaving us before his spring 
song commences. Unfortunately these beautiful 
Finches are too fond of orchard buds to be wel- 
comed as frequent visitors. 


Among the many Sparrows who spend the 
winter south of the Ohio none is handsomer than 



this one, who may be known by his broadly 
striped head and the white patch on the throat. 
He is larger by half an inch than the English 


Length 6% inches 

Sparrow of town streets. Besides the attraction 
of being so richly and harmoniously colored he 
offers a little song of his own that sounds like 
"I Peabody, peabody, peabody," or "pea-bod-y- 
bird," by which name he is frequently known in 


his Northern summer home where he is more 
often heard than seen. 

In our latitude, however, the winter sunshine 
rarely inspires him to more vocal effort than a 
few chirps and whistles. We see these White- 
throats on the ground in bushy, briery places, 
scratching like chickens, often in company with 
Fox Sparrows, and Towhees. They are ground 
birds, even building their nests on the ground 
after their return northward in spring. 

An old mountain field I know of, where a 
clear "spring-branch" slides with tinkle and 
murmur under encroaching shadows of pine and 
dogwood, emerging into sunlight in a tangle of 
bare bushes and blackberry briers, is a good 
place in wiiich to see all the winter sparrows. 
On a walk in that direction one is sure to encoun- 
ter a group of Swamp Sparrows in the withered 
grass, or of the large Fox Sparrows, brown and 
glossy like the dry leaves they are so vigorously 
tossing about; or Grasshopper Sparrows, with a 
yellow spot on the bend of the wing and another 
between the eye and the beak, flitting over a 
broom-sedge knoll ; or the two white tail feathers 
of the Vesper Sparrow flash before he disap- 
pears into the grizzly-gray weeds and under- 

These are but a few of the Sparrows who 
spend the winter in the Southern states. They 


are difficult for the beginner to distinguish, being 
all of the same general Sparrow type, with 
broad, conical Finch-like beaks, soft round heads, 
and pleasant ways. 


One snowy day in March a stranger came to 
feed among the Juncos and Wrens on their din- 
ner of crumbs, sunflower seeds, and cracked nuts, 
for which we had swept bare a rock in the back 
yard. We recognized the Song Sparrow "on 
whose throat Music hath set her triple-fingered 
mark," as Dr. Van Dyke says of him. Afterward 
we heard his thanksong from the top of a near- 
by pine, a delicious melody, varied and brilliant 
as that of a canary. A group of us stood listen- 
ing for a time in the doorway, on tiptoe not to 
miss a note; then we hunted out the passage in 
Thoreau's wonderful Walden which begins, "The 
first sparrow of spring! The year beginning 
with younger hope than ever!" and read it aloud 
with an appreciation none of us had ever felt 
before. Thus richly does nature reward us for 
a little friendliness, "inasmuch as we have done 
it unto one of the least of these." 

The Song Sparrow in all its variations is the 
most generally distributed and the best known 
of our native sparrows. It is a vivacious neigh- 
bor like the Chippy, at home in fields, hedges, 



and gardens, sprinkling the roadside with music, 
and blessing every hour of the day with good 
cheer. It is common throughout the South in 
winter, and enough Song Sparrows remain with 
us throughout the 
year for most of us 
to know them nearly 
as well by sound as 
by sight — though 
the March incident 
just related was un- 
usual. The song 
accompanies the ro- 
mance of mating and 
nesting, as with most 

The nest is some- 
times hidden in the 
grass and weeds, 
where it is at least 
safe from hawks, and" 
again it may be set 
up in the crotch of a 
bush, as if the little builders had meadow mice 
and clumsy-hoofed cattle in mind. It is cup- 
shaped, made of grass and leaves and lined with 
hair and fine fibres. From three to five grayish 
white, speckled eggs are laid, and two and even 
three broods may be raised in a season. 


Length 6% inches 



This shy ground bird steals through the 
weeds and grasses so quietly, and disappears 
into the fence or the underbrush so quickly when 
disturbed, that one may pass years among the 
birds without suspecting how many Savannah 
Sparrows inhabit our marshes and pastures dur- 
ing the winter. The habit of sitting alone out 
of doors while sketching has revealed to me 
many of the shyer and quieter species of birds, 
who, though easily startled by the slightest move- 
ment, will pass close by a motionless figure with- 
out fearing or perhaps even suspecting its pres- 
ence. It was in this way that I gained my first 
sight of the Savannah Sparrow. They were a 
small flock feeding in the grass, pecking along 
from clump to clump, chirping mildly and soci- 
ably, and every now and then raising their pretty 
round heads to look watchfully about them. 
Their streaked breasts, and the buff markings 
round their soft bright eyes, were plain to view; 
but they never saw me! If they had, what a 
fluttering and scattering away through the old 
fields, cat brier and sumach tangles must have 
ensued ! 

This Sparrow is no singer, but before going 
north to the lowlands of Canada and Nova Scotia 
to build his nest sometimes offers us a weak 



chirp and insect-like trill by way of springtime 


Like a lost riverlet is the sweet monotonous 
trill that, issuing from the grassy, brushy tangle 


Length 5% inches 

of the marsh growth, lets you know the little 
dark-brown bird is near, usually before your 
eyes can find him. Look closely at his bright 
bay head, which in winter is striped with black, 
and you may be sure of him in whatever sur- 
roundings; for in the South he does not always 
choose so moist a habitat, but is content in low- 
lying brushy pastures and sedge-grass fields. 
A stream that has lost its way in crossing a 



woody flat, and grown up in lush waterweeds 
and alder and azalea, suits very well the Swamp 
Sparrow's idea of a winter residence. Here you 
may see him flying just above the low thicket, 
trilling happily as he goes; or walking securely 
over the soft mire which your clumsier feet 

cannot approach; or even 
tripping across the water 
on some light pontoon of 
chance-caught drift that 
looks as if it would 
scarcely bear up a fly. 

In the spring these 
Sparrows, with the Grass- 
hoppers and the White- 
throats, return to their 
northern homes. 




Length 4 inches 

Tiniest and brightest 
of the children of winter 
is this happy fairy — 
smaller and brighter even than the Pine Warbler. 
Though most frequently seen pecking for his 
scanty fare along pine branches and in evergreen 
bushes, he is not confined to such, and being in 
winter very sociable with other small birds, goes 
wherever they do. I have seen him in the door- 


yard among Titmice and Juncos, and in a dog- 
wood thicket with Chickadees, busily and ami- 
cably feeding all together. 

He has not much of a song — a few weak 
chirps and trills; but his pleasant disposition is 
apparent without such evidence. 

Another Kinglet, the Ruby-crowned, is 
scarcely larger but a louder singer, brightening 
our winter days and, like the last, going north to 
Canada to build his nest in spring. 


Like a Japanese watercolor in finish of detail 
and softness of coloring is a group -of Wax- 
wings sitting close together, as they love to be, 
on a treetop; like a festoon of flying cherubs 
in some old master's conception of celestial 
regions is the grace of their short flights, wheel- 
ing out and back again. Invariably they sug- 
gest a work of art, or some finished elegance of 

Their affectionate, dainty manners toward 
one another win our admiration. Surely the 
beauty of such a flock, though songless, well 
repays us for the cherries of which they take 
toll. But their capacity for destroying canker- 
worms is an indorsement quite as strong. 

The name Waxwing is given them on account 
of the curiously tipped wing feathers. Across 



each wing is what appears to be a row of drops 
of bright red sealing wax. The body color is a 
smooth and delicate fawn which sunshine tints 
softly golden; there is a tuft on the head, and 
a yellow band across the tail. 

These birds come and go in flocks, delighting 
the very dooryard for a few days and then dis- 
appearing for months together. One never 
knows w T here to find them, but may walk up on 

a pretty group at any time. 
In our latitude they are win- 
ter visitors, building their 
nests from Virginia north- 
ward. At the time when a 
company of them descends 
upon the May cherries and 
provokes us to wrath by se- 
lecting the ripest and finest, 
most of our small birds are 
sitting, or have young in the nest, while some 
species are already considering a second venture 
in home-making. But it is not until June is well 
begun, and other birds are through with family 
cares for the season, that the beautiful Wax- 
wings begin to build. 

They seem to have no molting period; their 
appearance is always neat and full-feathered. 
Where most birds are incessantly in motion, 
restlessly changing position and place, nervously 

Length 7 inches 


searching for and triumphantly seizing their 
food, and eating it with watchful glances in all 
directions between bites, the Waxwings are 
creatures of elegant leisure. They have all the 
time there is. Having fed to repletion on great 
quantities of juniper and sumach berries, farkle- 
berries, wild cherries, worms, and various in- 
sects, they retire to the top of a chosen tree to 
sit nearly motionless for a long time digesting 
their meal and enjoying a low-toned lisping con- 
versation. They are a gentle race, taking life 
easily, in a gracious and ample spirit that may 
well be the envy of those less nobly bred. 


This is one of the world's famous singers who 
comes to winter with us, unheralded and almost 
unsuspected. He is not on tour; scarcely a note 
of his wonderful summer performance does he 
vouchsafe to the most patient and eager listener, 
even in early spring. By the time his singing 
season opens he is gone to his New England or 
Canadian home. 

During the cold months we may account him 
as the most elegant in appearance and refined in 
bearing of all our winter visitors. Smaller and 
less distinctly marked than the Wood Thrush, he 
slips like a lovely brown bit of shadow between 
lichened boulder and Christmas-fern, over mossy 



log and into a tangle of brush, and melts into 
invisibility in the soft gray of the winter woods. 
If you can steal upon him while making his 
morning toilet, as I have, you are lucky; or if 


Length 6% inches 

you are perfectly quiet he may remain for some 
time sitting on a limb before you, regarding you 
with gentle confidence and curiosity, and slowly 
moving his rust-brown tail up and down. 



In the Southern mountains this splendid sum- 
mer resident is called the Timber Redbird, to 
distinguish it from the Cardinal or " Winter 
Redbird." Its wild beauty is invested also with 
a certain halo of ro- 
mance, since in that 
region a pretty brunette, 
if she be saucy and spir- 
ited, is sometimes spoken 
of as a "timber red- 
bird. ' ' 

During the nesting 
season when the nuptial 
plumage is at its bright- 
est, the red of the male 
Tanager's body color is 
richer even than the 
Cardinal's, forming a 
striking contrast to the 
black wings and tail. At the molt in late summer 
he takes on the olive green body plumage of his 
mate, only the wings and tail coming in black 
as before. Were the little mother as gorgeous 
as he, the nest, well hidden as it is in the fresh 


Length iy 2 inches 



green undergrowth, would never be safe from 
the eyes of enemies while she sat on the eggs. 

There are three or four of those eggs, cradled - 
and hidden and guarded and defended like the 
treasures they are; bluish eggs, marked with 
brown. In the treetops the beautiful Tanager 
sings about them, a bright carol somewhat resem- 
bling the Robin's. Up in the world of green 
leaves, too, he hunts his food and calls down 
' 4 chip-cherr " to his brooding mate, coming to 
the ground only to bathe or drink. On the 
ground his brilliant scarlet and black make him 
as conspicuous as a blaze or a jewel; and he has 
not the daring which enables the Cardinal so 
often to risk descent. 


Almost as gorgeous as his wilder cousin is 
this red bird of open woods, hedges, and orchards, 
and perhaps he is a better singer. His wings 
and tail are bronze-red, instead of black like 
the Scarlet Tanager 's; and he is easily distin- 
guished from the Cardinal by his smooth round 
head, not tufted; by the absence of any black 
marking round the beak ; and by the difference in 
size. This Tanager ? s call-note, too, is distinc- 
tively his own, a sharp "chicker" and "ehicky- 
tucky-tuck, chicky-tucky-tucky-tuck, ' ' being a 
well-known summer sound. 



Length 7y 2 inches 

Like the female of the Cardinal and of the 
Scarlet Tanager, the mother bird of this species 
is clad in "protective 
coloring' ' that renders 
her hard to see among 
the leaves. Her nest is 
placed near the end of 
a limb, and made of 
fine twigs, strips of 
bark, weedstalks, and 
leaves, lined more 
softly with tendrils and 
blossom stems. It con- 
tains four bluish or greenish eggs, specked with 
cinnamon brown. 


Earliest of birds to return in spring, often 
wintering in the Gulf States, the Phoebe should 
occupy a very friendly place in our thoughts. 
Nearly every bridge in the country has its 
Phoebe's nest, the same pair returning to the 
spot year after year to build; though it is to be 
doubted whether the Phoebes seen in a neighbor- 
hood during the winter are the same individuals 
as those who in summer make their nests there. 
The pairs are supposed to mate, if not for life, 
at least for a term of years; but they separate 
during the migratory flight. 



Phoebe is sometimes spoken of as the Bridge 
Pewee; but throughout the mountain region they 
are known chiefly as rock nesters, building in the 
safe overhang of cliffs and sheltered ledges near 
streams. They often choose the eaves of a 
spring house, or a beam or rafter of a porch, 
and will build in a barn or shed if water is not 

far away. 

I used to know a "rock- 
house" under a mountain 
bluff where the nest of a 
Phoebe was to be seen every 
spring, with portions of 
those of preceding seasons 
still clinging to the face of 
the rock, and mud rings — 
as many as five might be 
counted — marking sites of 
others long crumbled away. This historic record 
was probably not so extensive as I believed at the 
time, since Phoebe may build two or three homes 
and hatch a brood from each in a single season. 
But the nest itself justified my deep interest, 
being cup-like in form, cemented firmly to the 
sandstone, and woven of moss and grass and soft 
vegetable fibres plastered together with mud. 
Phoebe likes to line this structure with chicken 
feathers — a habit that frequently causes trouble, 
as mites are fatal to baby Phoebes. 


Length 7 inches 



This bird's fondness for watery places is ex- 
plained by its manner of getting a living. Its 
food must be caught on the wing; and the multi- 
tude of sawyers, longlegs, gnats, Mayflies, and 
mosquitoes that dance above a stream are just 
to its liking. 

Phoebe's color is dusky 
olive, with a pearl-white 
breast. He wears a dark 
crown cap, and the outer 
tail feathers have a rim of 
white. There is no song, 
but a monotonous note of 
' 6 Phoebe, phoebe, pewit, 
phoebe." Although the 
spring arrival is so early, 
it is May before the four or five white eggs are 

The- Wood Pewee's call is softer and more 
plaintive — a drawling ' ' pe-wee, pee-ah-wee. ' ' 
Its nest, high among the trees, is of soft fibres 
covered outside with lichens ; not so deep as the 
Gnatcatcher's but saddled on a limb in a similar 
way, so as to appear from below like a mossy 

Other Flycatchers who visit us are the 
Crested Flycatcher, who has the peculiar habit 
of weaving a cast snake-skin into the lining of 
his nest, and the smaller Acadian Flycatcher. 

Length 6^ inches 


All this family may be known by their way of 
sitting very still on a dead twig or other open 

Length 9 inches 

perch, and darting ont after flying insects, to 
return to the same place and watchful attitude. 


"Are you weary? Why is it? We can cheer 
you; we know the secret; this is it: holy spirit; 
do you believe it? you know it; you see it; can 
you hear me?" 

This is the Preacher delivering his matins 
from among the green boughs to all and sundry. 
He is actively in pursuit of a meal throughout 
the course of his rambling recitative. 

Every fly or worm that he seizes from the 



under side of a leaf has to be vigorously thumped 
against a twig and killed before it is swallowed, 
but none of this business interrupts the sermon 

Length 6 inches 

— or is he really pronouncing a cheerful grace 
upon his meat? 

The Eed-eyed Vireo is one of the last birds 
to be silenced by the advance of summer, and 



one of the most common and widely distributed 
of our small insect hunters. He may be known 
by the olive general coloring that makes him 

difficult to distinguish 
among the leaves, by 
the gray cap, and the 
white line over the 
eye ; the breast is 
pearly white. But I 
never could see that 
his eyes w r ere redder than those of an ordinary 
brunette, although they may not be as black as 
those of a Wood Warbler or a flying squirrel. 


Length 5% inches 


Length 5% inches 

The nest is a tantalizing object to cats and 
other groundling enemies, being unlike most 
bird-homes easier to see than to reach. It is a 


pretty little gray basket, smoothly and firmly 
woven of strips of bark, and hung in the fork of 
a branch far out from the main body of the tree. 
It is lined with finer vegetable fibres and plant- 
down. Often the outside is fairly shingled over 
with fragments torn from old hornets' nests, 
and daubed with wads of spiders' silk. You 
cannot mistake it for any other nest in the 
woods. There are three or four white eggs, 
speckled round the larger end. 

The Yellow-throated Vireo is a little larger, 
and keeps more to the w^oods, rarely coming into 
our dooryards as does the Preacher. He sings 
much the same tune, but sings in a contralto 
voice, and is less oratorical than Redeye's so- 
prano delivery. 

The Mountain Solitary Vireo builds in the 
Southern Alleghenies, and the White-eyed Vireo 
sometimes winters in the Gulf States. 


This singer of the open field is but a transient 
visitor in the Middle South. His summer home 
is from New Jersey and Kansas northward; 
later in the season, wiien his gay nuptial plumage 
has been molted, he fattens on Louisiana rice; 
and drifts further south, even to Mexico and 
South America, for the winter. But almost any 
bird of Eastern North America may be a tran- 



sient in the Middle South during April and 
May, since it is directly in the line with the great 
migratory routes, and so it comes that his alle- 
gretto voluntaries are often borne to our ears 
across some rich spring meadow — 

Crying, "Phew; 
shew, Bobolincoln, 
see, see, Wadolin- 
coln, Down among 
the thistle tops, hid- 
ing in the butter- 
cups ! — Bobolincoln, 
Wadolincoln, Win- 
ter seeble, follow, 
follow me!" 

The rule of color 
among birds is that 
the upper parts 
shall be dark and the breast and underparts 
lighter in tone. But the male Bobolink gives the 
impression of having put on his clothes upside 
down; for, as we of the last generation used to 
declaim from the dear old McGuffy readers : 

"Kobert of Lincoln is gayly drest, 

Wearing a bright black wedding coat; 
White are his shoulders and white his crest. 
Hear him call in his merry note, 
" Bobolink, bobolink, 
Spink, spank, spink, 

Length 7*4 inches 


Look, what a nice new coat is mine ; 

Sure, there was never a bird so fine ! 

Chee, chee, chee." 

This harlequin garb accords well with the 
bubbling, jerky, almost comic, nature of his 
music. His liquid notes tumble over each other 
so rapidly and in such quaint variety as to aston- 
ish as well as delight the ear. Though he works 
considerable damage in rice-growing regions, the 
northern climate which claims him during the 
nesting and singing season, has no more popular 
minstrel than this rollicking composer of humor- 


Eenegade and slacker we must call him, for 
what virtue of diligence in insect hunting can 
make up for the one great fault of the species? 
For this is the only bird we have in America 
who neither makes a nest nor cares for its ow T n 
young. The female lays her white egg and then, 
watching her chance, slyly carries it to the nest 
of some smaller bird wiien the home-builders are 
absent, and leaves it to the care of more honest 
and responsible parties. Warblers, Sparrows, 
and Vireos are all victimized in this manner; and 
while some Warblers are bright enough to out- 
wit the imposition by building a new nest on top 
of the first, they will not do so if their own eggs 



are already placed, but take upon themselves the 

extra task of hatching and rearing the young 


The interloper, being larger than the rightful 

nestlings, demands more food and more of the 

parent bird's attention, 
so that the others suf- 
fer and may even be 
starved by its greed. 

It is believed that 
no regular mating takes 
place among the Cow- 
birds; in short, they 
know no family tie. 
Appropriately, they are 

songless. They are oftenest seen walking about 

singly or in promiscuous groups among cows in 

the pasture, whence the name. 


It seems that with all the interest that has 
been shown by American poets in this brother 
of the open, some one of them might have taken 
pains to find a name for him that should better 
express his personality. Mocking Bird is not 
pretty, and besides he is so much more than a 
mere mocker; the imitations he puts into his 
rich, sweet, wonderful medley are the least part 
of its variety and charm. And not all the indi- 


Length 7% inches 



viduals of the species are accomplished imita- 
tors; .probably this faculty increases with prac- 
tice as the bird grows older. Moreover, did he 
never sing a note he would still be a delightful 
and valuable neighbor, helpful in our war against 
cutworms and kindred pests, and fascinatingly 
original in his behavior. 

The Latin name is scarcely more fortunate — 
Mimus Polygiottos, which means the Many- 


Length 10^ inches 

tongued Mimic. This troubadour of a thousand 
springs ought fitly to have a name from some 
musical and romantic language like the Spanish. 
But no matter! Once hearing him, and reading 
Sidney Lanier's tribute or Walt Whitman's 
"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Bocking," one 
inevitably inclines to ask what's in a name. 

He is quite lordly in his bearing toward other 
singers, permitting none of them to be heard in 


his territory. They may build nests and hunt 
for food as they please, but let a Tanager or a 
Catbird begin a song from a quiet treetop and 
his superior in music is down upon him at once. 
The Cardinal, however, is able to dispute his 
domain, so that both are frequently heard sing- 
ing together on May mornings. 

In color and size the Mocking Bird resembles 
the Catbird, but is quite distinctly marked with 
a white crescent on each wing and two white 
feathers in the tail, so that in flight there is a 
sort of broken halo round him. Perhaps his 
characteristic motions distinguish him even more 
readily. In mid-song he springs into the air 
from time to time as if unable to contain him- 
self; he must even w^ake up in the night to sing 
again, trilling, warbling, whistling, and fluttering 
excitedly under the April moon. Another pecu- 
liarity is his way of lifting and half opening his 
wings occasionally while walking or picking up 
his dinner on the ground, spreading his white 
crescents as though to catch the sun. 

It is not fully correct to speak of this group 
of related singers, the Mocking Bird, the Cat- 
bird, and the Thrasher, as migratory, since all 
three often winter in the Gulf States, and as far 
north as the Ohio valley are sometimes resident 
where found. 

The nest of the Mocking Bird is built of sticks 


and weeds, lined with fine rootlets, and usually 
set in a thicket or tangle of brush. The four or 
five eggs are bluish green, with markings of red- 
dish brown. 

Mr. George Cable, one of our most delightful 
Southern novelists, has thus humorously de- 
scribed the November behavior of the two favor- 
ite birds in Louisiana : 

"Only an adventitious China-tree here and 
there had been stripped of its golden foliage, and 
kept but its ripened berries with the red birds 
darting and fluttering around them like so many 
hiccoughing Comanches about a dramseller's 
tent. And here, if one must tell a thing so pain- 
ful, our old friend the mocking bird, neglecting 
his faithful wife and letting his home go to 
decay, kept dropping in, all hours of the day, 
tasting the berries ' rank pulp, stimulating, stimu- 
lating, drowning care, you know, — 'Lost so 
many children, and the rest gone off in ungrate- 
ful forgetfulness of their old hardworking 
father'; yes, and ready to sing or fight, just as 
any other creature happened not to wish ; and 
going home in the evening scolding and swagger- 
ing, and getting to bed barely able to hang on 
to the roost. It would have been bad enough, 
even for a man ; but for a bird — and a mocking 




Listen to him reverently and with an open 
heart, for here is one of the world's perfect 
voices. The Thrush tone is the purest and sweet- 
est to be found among American birds. Thoreau 


Length 8 inches 

says it is "like things drawn up dripping from 
the bottom of deep springs." 

Whether the Wood Thrush or his smaller, 
shyer northern relative, the Hermit Thrush, may 
be considered the supreme exemplar of this fam- 
ily gift is still in doubt: opinions differ. The 
latter bird is rarely heard in the Southern states, 
though he is well known as a winter visitor. 
Certain South American thrushes and solitaires 


are said to possess a timbre and tone-quality 
finer still, but I find it hard to imagine. 

This leaves the Wood Thrush to be safely 
named as the finest singer of our region. Fortu- 
nately he is common throughout the wooded por- 
tion of the South, and not too shy, — never so 
shy as he is reserved, with a delicate dignity of 
manner and a love for deep recesses of green 
leaves. His lines and finish are graceful as those 
of a vase or a violin; he carries himself with a 
sort of unhurried courtesy — just what one would 
expect in so great a musician. Here is a fit 
instrument, fine in every detail, through which 
the very soul of music speaks. The song invari- 
ably gives one the sense of a private hearing, 
as if too rare and lofty to be addressed to the 
multitude; it is attuned to vast silences of dawn 
or twilight, and to haunts of green shadow that 
might echo the pipes of Pan. Written for the 
piano, as it has been again and again, it is 
arranged as a bar or phrase of notes, followed 
by a full rest; then another matchless phrase 
ending in the softest evanishing trill, and another 
rest; then a third, and so on — forming a regular 
sequence of about five different phrases, with full 
rests between, repeated over and over in the 
same deliberate strain, as different as possible 
from the rapid operatic outgush of the Mocking 
Bird and his kin. 



It is a little strange that of all the really fine 
poems in which "hush" has been rhymed with 
"thrush" since the time of Agassiz, the majority 
have celebrated him as an evening songster. To 
me the song is chiefly associated with the hour 
of dawn, for the thrush is earliest waking of all 

Length 4.y 2 inches 

our birds. Morning after morning it is his voice 
that awakes the sleeping forest, when the east is 
streaked with rose. Can it be that our American 
poets do not rise in time to hear him? Perish 
the thought; have they not one and all praised 
the morning hours? Thoreau, to whom dawn in 
the woods was as familiar as sunset on the pond, 


recognizes the thrush as a true poet of inspira- 
tion from the length of his singing period, ex- 
tending from shortly after his arrival about 
April 1st to 10th, to the first hot days of August. 
Says the philosopher, "Any man can write 
verses in the love season." 

Another thrush with a miracle in its throat 
is the Veery, smaller and shyer than the Wood 
Thrush and less vividly colored. Shadowlike it 
slips through low, dense woodlands, and its song 
is a wild hymn of shadow, echoing the mystery 
and magic of the woods. The Olive-backed 
Thrush is also found here. 

The Thrush's nest is much like the Robin's, 
having an inner wall of mud lined with black 
rootlets. It is set in a sapling crotch or saddled 
on a bough. The four or five eggs are blue. 


Late in April or about the first of May, as 
you pass a brush-pile, a tangle of honeysuckles 
or roses, a brier patch, or even a clump of weeds 
and grass on the ground, look close for the star- 
ing yellow eye, like a chicken's, of a mother 
Thrasher on her big brushy nest of sticks. But 
do not disturb her; for this is one of our spe- 
cially valued birds, and it would be a great pity 
if any one of those cinnamon-sprinkled grayish 
eggs were to miss its chance of hatching. 




In song and movements the Thrasher is very 
like the Mocking Bird and Catbird, to whom he is 
closely related; bnt he is more of a ground bird 
than they, darting in and out of brier patches 
and fence-rows, looking all over the yard and gar- 
den for cutworms and grubworms, mounting to a 
treetop only when ready to pour himself out in 
song. And what a song! In tone and delivery 
it resembles that of the Catbird, but is rounder 
and more uniformly sweet, containing no harsh 
notes and no imitations. Among writers on birds 
there seems a great difference of opinion about 
his quality as a musician, some pronouncing his 
performance second only to that of the Mocking 
Bird, and others declaring it to be a monotonous 
repetition of a single phrase. Well, if it be 
monotonous, then the Nightingale's is monot- 
onous. All agree, I believe, in praising the 
sweetness of the Thrasher's tone. 

Much confusion has arisen as to the identities 
of this bird and the Wood Thrush, although they 
are not so similar that they need be mistaken 
for each other when one has once had a good 
look at them both. The Wood Thrush is not 
brown at all except on the head, while this color 
extends all over the Thrasher; the breasts are 
speckled something alike, but the Thrasher may 
be certainly known by the two lighter bars on the 
wing. The songs, too, are utterly unlike. 


Perhaps the mistake arises from a supposi- 
tion that the well-known poem of our school- 
days, "The Merry Brown Thrush," refers to 
one or the other. It is my belief that these . 
pretty verses were written in celebration of some 
English species not found on this side of the 
Atlantic. For the song of the Wood Thrush is not 
merry, any more than the music of Bach or 
Beethoven is merry; while one line speaks of a 
nest "and five eggs hid by me in the juniper- 
tree, ' ' but I have never known either Thrush or 
Thrasher to build in evergreen trees, the 
Thrasher especially being likely to build near the 


Of all the empty birds' nests in my posses- 
sion the most interesting is perhaps that of a 
pair of Catbirds, who built it in a plum tree 
behind an old barn and in it hatched their young 
from four beautiful green-blue eggs. It is quite 
soberly lined with fine rootlets; the main struc- 
ture is sensibly woven of crab-grass, weeds, and 
shreds of grapevine bark and corn husks; but 
down in the foundation, made of dry leaves, 
cornstalk splints and heavier weed stems, is a 
queer notionate collection, perhaps made with 
some idea of ornament. There are chicken quills, 
wrapping twine, a bit of crumpled newspaper, a 



yard or two of floss partly crocheted by some 
little girl's hook, half a magazine page, a strip 
of rag, and a paper doll's dress! — just a little 
of everything, one would say, that could be found 
on the farm. 

Something of the same capricious collecting 
habit enters into the Catbird's song; he gathers 
a bit of everything into it. 
He begins in a fine musical 
tone, like a silver violin, to 
sing of the freshness and fra- 
grance of the spring morning, 
— "phut - phut - coquil - licot, 
calumet calumet kereen"; then 
thrusts a medley of imitations 
into his theme, Whippoorwill 
and Tanager notes, Cardinal 
and Jay — even trying to ren- 
der the Wood Thrush strain, 
although to produce the Thrush 
tone is far beyond his powers. Again he catches 
the full sweetness of his violin, and does beauti- 
ful coloratura lacework for a while, only to 
break off, as if a string had snapped, into the 
harsh cat-call — miaow! miaow! — from which he 
derives his name. Some very expressive lines 
have been written by an unknown author con- 
cerning this quality of Catbird music. The first 
stanza runs: 


Length 9 inches 


You who would with wanton art 
Counterfeit another's part, 
And with noisy utterance claim 
Right to an ignoble name, — 
Inharmonious ! — why must you, 
To a better self untrue, 
Gifted with the charm of song, 
Do the generous gift such wrong? 

Mark Twain called him the Northern Mock- 
ing Bird. It is not strange that in regions 
where both are at home in summer, the two birds 
should be often confused, as they are rather 
similar in appearance, habit, and song. The 
Catbird's voice is less round and full in quality 
than that of his more famous kinsman, and the 
song has not so rich a variety. Although both 
birds are ashen gray, the Catbird is slightly 
darker and its markings are easily distinguished 
— a black cap, and a patch of chestnut under the 
tail; no white feathers anywhere. 

He is of a prankish, playful disposition, and 
so tame as to enliven the very dooryard. As a 
devourer of cutworms and other insect pests he 
is unsurpassed. Before cherries and berries are 
ripe he has well earned his share of them; and 
who would be so niggardly as to grudge what he 




This is the bluest of things blue, I do believe, 
in all the country, — like a drop precipitated by 
the delicate azure that is held in solution by the 
summer air. Blue we see in the velvety skies of 
the region ; it hangs like a veil of flame — the 
thin violet flame of certain gases — over the 
sides of mountains and is reflected in the river; 
it is accented by bluebells, blue phlox, tradescan- 
tia, and bluets; in this bird it flashes fire! — a 
color deep as a tur- 
quoise, burnished like a 
sapphire, dusky on the 
wing feathers and dark- 
ening to indigo only on 
the head. 

As is usual among 
species of splendid plu- 
mage, the female aspires 
to none of this physical 
glory, choosing rather the safety of the eggs and 
nestlings, which her Sparrow-like coloration 
helps to conceal. The pretty cup-shaped nest is 
generally set in the crotch of a bush, and is com- 
pactly made of grasses, dead leaves, and strips 
of bark, lined with hairs and softer vegetable 

The Indigo Bird's song is a cheery warble 

Length 5^ inches 



that seems to bubble up from the gladdest of 
hearts, expressing the very spirit of a summer 
morning. It is one of the last songs to be 
silenced by the oncoming heat and the molting 
season, being heard until well into August. 

The Painted Bunting or Nonpareil is perhaps 
the most gorgeously colored bird found in the 

United States. So 
many colors, so brightly 
laid on, has he, that he 
seems exotic, as if only 
a visitor from the trop- 
ics where he makes his 
winter home. He is 
not so common any- 
where as the Indigo 
Bunting, and his range 
is restricted, so that we 
may almost claim him 
as a native of the South 
Atlantic, and Middle 
Southern States alone. His song is not equal 
to that of the Indigo Bird, and he is of a more 
retiring disposition, so that in spite of his vivid 
colors he is a stranger to most people. 


Perhaps because of its fine long wings, this 
species is often spoken of as Chimney Swallow, 


Length 5% inches 



though it is more nearly related to the Whip- 
poorwills, Nighthawks, and Humming Birds than 
to the Swallows. Before the advent of the white 
man, these birds built their nests in hollow trees ; 
but since the country was settled they have gen- 
erally come to prefer and adopt unusued chim- 
neys as a dwelling-place. An old factory chim- 
ney may shelter hundreds. 

The Chimney Swift's 
feet, like those of the Whip- 
poorwill, are too small and 
w r eak to get about on, and 
only suffice for perching and 
clinging. In ascending the 
inside of a chimney they 
cling with sharp claws to 
the wall and hitch upward 
little by little, bracing them- 
selves by the stiff spines 
with which the tail feathers are pointed. The 
wings, having been developed at the expense 
of the feet, are powerfully and beautifully made, 
and once the top of the chimney is reached the 
bird sets forth in air, with free and rapid mo- 
tions, to catch insects on the wing. 

The nest is semi-circular, made of twigs glued 
together and cemented to the wall by the bird's 
saliva. It is a cliff -dwelling bird of similar 
architectural ideas which furnishes the famous 

Length 5% inches 


bird-nest soup, agreeable to the palates of. the 


Tiniest of all, a saucy Tom Thumb among the 
birds, is this flying jewel, whose size, chirp, and 
humming flight are more like those of an in- 
sect than of a bird. Vibrant with energy and 
strangely fearless, a pair of these wee creatures 
will dart out to attack any creature that ap- 
proaches their nest, whatever the trespasser's 
size; in fact, the males enjoy fighting, and whirl- 
ing in sudden squeaking quarrels round the hon- 
eyed trumpets of the woodbine. Red blossoms 
are their choice, though they will visit others. 
The popular idea of these fairylike bits of beauty 
is that they subsist daintily on the nectar of 
flowers alone; but this concentrated sweet is not 
sufficient to maintain such highly keyed vitality; 
they consume numbers of small spiders and other 

It is the male who displays the ruby throat; 
but the female is pretty enough, in metallic 
lustres of green with glints of gold. 

The nest is about the size, shape, and con- 
sistency of a ball of crochet silk, being delicately 
woven of soft fibres, lined with plant down (a 
favorite material for this is the yellowish wool 
from stems of cinnamon fern), and covered with 



gray flakes of lichen, the whole bound together 
with cobweb and other threads from insect spin- 
dles. So naturtdly does this fairy domicile sit 
saddled on its gray-barked support as to be all 
but unnoticeable, not to say invisible. Seen from 

Length 3% inches 

below, it looks exactly like a small knot on the 
limb; and a lady who once looked over my col- 
lection of empty nests even remarked that it 
was strange the lichen should grow so much 
thicker on the nest than on the bark! 

Two white eggs scarcely larger than peas 


occupy this dainty cradle. Fourteen days' incu- 
bation is sufficient to hatch the tiny twins, who 
are fed by regurgitation — a murderous-looking 
process, since nearly the whole length of the par- 
ent bird's beak is thrust down the young one's 
throat, and given a violent pumping motion; but 
the youngsters enjoy it. 

The Eubythroat has a peculiar way of frol- 
icking or dancing in the air by flying rapidly to 
and fro in a 30-foot semicircle, as if swinging 
on the end of a thread. At each conclusion of 
this arc, before turning, he pauses for an excited 
twitter. This sort of " spree" is declared by 
some ornithologists to result from indulgence 
in the sweet sun-fermented juices that flow from 
Sapsucker borings in birch trees. I have never 
caught him drinking sap myself, but this pendu- 
lum-like swing has been performed before my 
eyes more than once, and always in the same 
wildly joyous fashion. 


Only after sunset does this bird open its 
large, dark, peculiarly lidded eyes and steal forth 
from the dense woods or thicket where it has 
slept all day. The dusk is full of insects, and 
flying low among them, it soon catches a supper 
on the wing. The wide mouth is adapted for 
this work, like the rim of a butterfly-net, and the 



long sensitive hairs with which it is set appear 
to serve the same purpose as the whiskers of a 

But stopping now and then to sit lengthwise 
of a limb, a fence-rail by a clearing, or even the 
ridgepole of some lonely cabin, it sends forth the 
quiver and lash, quiver and lash, quiver and lash 
of its thong-like note — a silvery-sweet if melan- 
choly nocturne that ac- 
cords well with the 
beauty and mystery of 
the summer night. Be- 
fore dawn, when the 
leaves and flowers are 
still asleep in the dew, 
he sings again. 

The Whippoorwill 
makes no nes,t, but in 
May lays two eggs on 
the bare ground in 
woods or thickets. They are beautiful as jewels, 
pearly white with a few delicate markings of 
lilac and brown. 

There is a larger bird called Chuckwill's 
Widow, whose cry, being slowly uttered at inter- 
vals of several seconds, has an even more lonely 
and weird effect than the more familiar hurrying 
Whippoorwill call. A little boy once gave me 
as the wording of this variation, "Chip out o ? 


Length 9% inches 




whiteoak — chip out o' whiteoak," which I think 
more accurate than the commonly accepted 
ChuckwilPs Widow. The mouth of this bird is 
enormous, gaping about two inches across from 
corner to corner, so that the largest night-moths 
and even small birds may be eaten. If one 
extends a hand gently to pick up this queer crea- 
ture, it is apt to rely on its protective coloring 
for safety and, I verily believe, on a certain re- 
semblance to a snake; for instead of making a 
wild struggle to escape it merely shuffles sidewise 
a little, and opens its mouth to emit a hissing 
noise and a disgusting odor. 

Both birds are peculiar in the shape of the 
large dark eyes, in velvety, rotten-wood, mottled 
grayish brown colors, and in having wings devel- 
oped at the expense of the feet. They can cling 
to a perch, but the walk is a clumsy shuffle. 


"Bullbats" we commonly call them, as we 
look up at sunset to watch them flying over, not 
too high' to be identified by the white spot on 
each of those long, swift, oar-like wings. "Peent, 
peent," they cry, then suddenly dive through the 
air and turn, making a hollow, booming sound 
by means of the large wing-feathers. 

Above the river where insects abound, above 
the woods and fields, even above the city streets 


they course to and fro, zigzagging as bats do in 
pursuit of food on the wing. From May 1st to 
late September they flit overhead at night, and 
sleep by day perched lengthwise on a limb, where 
their beautifully mottled velvety brown and gray 

Length 10 inches 

coloring renders them almost invisible. They 
spend the winter in South America. 

Like the Whippoorwill, Nighthawks build no 
nest, but lay two white eggs on the bare ground. 


In marshy places around lakes and ponds, or 
where some meandering stream spreads out into 



an alder thicket, the Bedwings are found in 

numbers during the 


season. It is only- 

wears bright scarlet 

the black-coated male who 

epaulets; the young birds and the females, who 

during the winter and in migration flock by 

themselves, are 

brown with darker 

streaks, marked 

something like a 


The rich call-note 
i s described a s 
1 i kong - que - ree ' ' or 
u Oh lee." There 
is also a fifing chorus 
which the males sing 
all together, which, 
while not musical, 
makes as springlike 
a sound as the rip- 
pling of Pickering 

The nest, if in 
alder thickets, is 
placed in a crotch of a bush; but if in reedy 
marshes it is supported by lacing several stems 
together. It is made of coarse grasses and weed 
stalks, lined with finer fibres. The eggs are pale 
blue, curiously black-streaked and spotted. 


Length 9% inches 




Have you ever seen martin-gourds swinging 
by twos and fours from the top of a pole, in some 
homelike nook where "bee-gums"- stand in the 
corners of an old rail-fence among honeysuckles 
and yellow Scotch roses? Pleasant company 
they make for summer days, darting about over- 
head with a loud rolling twitter, not even taking 

shelter from a shower 
that drives all other 
birds inside, taking 
the rain on their long 
strong wings in the 
best of voice and spir- 
its ; pleasant company, 
worth all the gourds 
and box-houses we can 
put up for them. 
They live by prefer- 
ence in colonies, hence 
a real martin-box 
should be a double- 
tenement affair or a small hotel, having several 
compartments and entrances. It should be 
mounted on a bare pole in an open space, never 
in a tree; and should not be put up until the 
time of the Martin's arrival from South America 
in early April, — unless you wish the trouble of 


Length 7% inches 


dispossessing whole families of English Spar- 
rows to make room for the later comer. 

Other Swallows who make their summer 
homes with us are the Barn Swallow, who plas- 
ters his mud nest under 
the eaves and lines it with 
chicken feathers; the Bank 
Swallow, whose home is in 
a hole in some sandy bank 
near running water; and 
the Rough - winged Swal- 
low, who darts and wheels bank swallow 
above the treetops in pur- Length 5^ inches 

suit of insects. All are good architects, and all 
have the slim canoe-like build and arrowy wings 
of the Swallow type. 


Perhaps you know him better by the name 
of Bee-Martin; and perhaps you have heard tales 
of his quarrelsome and overbearing disposition 
and his prowess in driving away other birds. 
While he seems to have a grudge against Crows, 
those well-known plunderers, and while he is not 
afraid to tackle even a large Hawk, it is now the 
opinion of good observers that popular accounts 
of the Kingbird's tyranny have been much exag" 
gerated. Of course any bird, even the peaceful 
little Vireo, will defend its nest with spirit. 



The male Kingbird is usually seen sitting or 
rather standing very erect on a dead twig or 
other perch having an unobstructed outlook, on 
the watch, Flycatcher fashion, for passing in- 
sects. While his mate is sitting on her eggs he 
takes a position not far away, and is very affec- 
tionate and attentive to 
her, guarding the nest 
while she goes out to seek 
food, and singing a few 
pleasing notes to her be- 
fore daybreak. When the 
young make their way out 
of the brown-spotted eggs, 
he becomes a devoted 
father, untiring in the 
labor of catching insects 
for them. 

Does he, or does he 
not, earn his nickname of 
Bee-Martin by eating 
honeybees? Some bee- 
keepers have told me that he sits on a perch near 
the hive on purpose, and seizes the little workers 
as they fly out and in. But certain ornithologists 
w x ho have taken pains to dissect the bodies of 
various species of birds and determine what was 
actually in the crops, declare that the Kingbird 
does not eat worker bees, who have stings, but 

Length 8% inches 



pick up only drones, who are stingless and at 
the approach of winter are destined to be killed 

There are blank pages on which to record your 
own observations about this point. 


This pretty little fellow seems to me like a 
miniature Catbird in appearance and motions. 
The song, too, is like tiny Catbird music, but 
faint and squeaky, in- 
terspersed with a call- 
note like the tank of a 
broken fiddle-string. 

It is a delight to 
watch the pair at 
work on their nest, 
with a great deal of 
flitting and fussing 
and frequent enthusi- 
astic bursts of song. 
Fine strips of bark, tendrils, and grasses are 
woven into a deep symmetrical cup, which is 
covered outside with lichens that blend it exactly 
with the bark, and bound with spider web and 
other insect silk, making on the whole the very 
prettiest nest I know of in all the woods. Four 
or five speckled bluish eggs are laid. 

Length 4% inches 




Black and chestnut are his colors, but hand- 
some as he is it is by his voice that we remember 

and recognize him 
on his return to the 
orchard or the 
shade trees of the 
lawn. In first one 
tree and then an- 
other it bubbles 
forth, a rich war- 

Length 7 1 ,4 inches 

bling carol easily dis- 
tinguishable even 
among the full spring 

His nest, while not so 
deeply swung as that of 
his more famous cousin, 
is noticeably well woven 
of the choicest material, 
and firmly set in the crotch of a limb. 

The range of the beautiful Baltimore Oriole 
is more generally Northern, but nests are occa- 


Length 7% inches 


sionally found as far south as Georgia. Its color 
is splendid, as if brought from the tropical jun- 
gle, rich orange, with black wings and tail. The 
nest is one of the most remarkable in the bird 
world — a deep pouch-like hammock woven of 
vines, stems, strings, and grass, swung from a 
bough, the entrance being in the side. The song 
is even sweeter and richer than that of the 
Orchard Oriole. 


No drawing that I have seen gives a true idea 
of the grace and beauty of this well-known bird, 
which is, however, much more often heard than 
seen. Its long, slender "streamlines" are built 
for silent gliding through the treetops. The 
general color is a dusky olive brown, and the 
whole breast and underparts are of that color 
which in birds we call white, but which is really 
a lustrous pearly tint impossible to reproduce in 
paint. On each wing is a concealed beauty-patch 
of bronze or rufous, seen only as the larger 
feathers are spread to reveal its dull glow. The 
long tail feathers are tipped with white, showing 
from beneath like a series of thumb prints. The 
foot is peculiar in having two toes pointing for- 
ward and two back; a short, stout member, able 
to take a strong clutch on twigs and branches. 

Eaincrow we call him, when on summer days 


we hear "c,c,c,c,cow! cow! cow!" from a lone 
tree or from the edge of the woods. From its 
rhythm the cry has been compared to the distant 
whetting of a scythe, though it is not in the least 
a metallic sound. 

Solitary in habit and shy in disposition, the 
Cuckoos are known by voice, rather than by 
sight, over most of the Eastern United States. 
The Black-billed Cuckoo is common over the 
more northern part of its range; the Yellow- 
billed is the commoner Southern bird. Their 
habits are very similar. 

Neither is a good nest-builder, though none of 
our American Cuckoos ever becomes so lazy as 
to leave its egg in the home of another bird to be 
hatched and reared, like the European species. 
The nest is little more than a shabby platform 
of loosely laid sticks in a low tree or bush, soft- 
ened by grasses and dry oak tassels, but so 
thinly that the three to five pale greenish blue 
eggs may sometimes be seen through it from 
below. The eggs are not always laid at regular 
periods, one each day as is usual among birds. 
Intervals of some days sometimes elapse, thus 
frequently causing the nest to contain young 
birds and fresh eggs at the same time. The eggs 
of the Black-billed Cuckoo are rather smaller and 
darker than those of the other species. 

This is one of our most useful birds in the 



Length 12% inches 


checking of insect pests. The Cuckoo devours 
great numbers of tent-caterpillars, a creature few 
other birds will touch. If you will look close at 
the great gray webs these insects spin to wrap 
themselves, you will often find them punctured 
again and again by this bird's beak. It has been 
estimated that a single Cuckoo consumes from. 
50 to 400 caterpillars daily. Anyone who has 
seen the trees stripped by these insects will ap- 
preciate the protection that Cuckoos afford to 
green growth. They frequent open wood lands 
or the borders of woods and sometimes come into 
orchards and gardens, where they are more than 
welcome. But they are never conspicuous around 
our homes, because of their habits of concealing 
themselves among the foliage, and of keeping 
perfectly quiet when the least alarmed. 

Young Cuckoos are the funniest, ugliest little 
creatures imaginable when first hatched. Their 
black skin is almost naked, and their mouths 
open bright red. The growing feathers remain 
in pencil-like sheaths until fully developed, so 
that their bodies appear to be encased in a curi- 
ous mail of hedgehog-like quills. Young King- 
fishers also present this singular appearance. 
The constant feeding on hundreds of insects 
daily has its effect; sooner or later the little 
black bodies fill out, the day comes when the 
feathers split their sheaths all at once, and 


within a few hours the nest is filled with birds 
daintily clothed in dusky bronze and white, ready 
to make their first short flight into their treetop 
world. This striking transformation is one of 
the interesting features of Cuckoo life. 

Another strange characteristic is their way 
of traveling at night during migration. They 
arrive in our latitude about the first of May, and 
leave at the end of September to spend the win- 
ter in South America. 


The Doorstep Sparrow is John Burroughs 
name for this gentle, cheerful little chap, and a 
better could hardly be found. Of the many spe- 
cies of Sparrows round our homes in the coun- 
try, this is the only one who is a summer mi- 
grant, and he so frequently winters with us as 
almost to be written as a permanent resident. 
He is smaller in size than the English Sparrow 
and has no mind for fighting, so that he is no 
longer to be found in suburbs and thickly settled 
places, where the larger, bullying Sparrow is in 
possession of all available nesting places before 
Chippy's return in the spring. 

He may be readily known in summer by his 
rufous or rust-colored cap, and by the white line 
over the eye. In winter this bay cap is changed 
for a streaked one, and the Chippies flock to the 



fields to live upon weed and grass seeds. The 
call-note is a soft chip, the song a rapid "chippy- 
chippy, chippy-chippy ' ' long continued, like an 
insect's buzzing, not musical at all; but the 


Length 5% inches 

friendliness of Chippy's disposition atones for 
his lack as a songster; he needs no special talent 
to endear him to us all. 

The nest is of grass and rootlets and other 
fibres, lined with horsehair. The four or five 
speckled eggs are laid about the first of May, 


but a second or even a third brood are some- 
times raised. 


This is the largest and by far the noisiest of 
the Warblers. Except for his green and olive 
coloring he does not seem like a Warbler at all. 
His beak and legs are thick and stout, colored 
lead-gray; his voice is rather loud, and sounds as 
if he were scolding or harshly criticising some- 
body or something in the woods. "Woit? cheep 
— chuck; whee-whee-whee-whee — " and so on 
with any kind of whistle or squawk, never by 
any chance achieving a musical tone, but in such 
variety that he is sometimes given the name of 
Polyglot Chat and credited with imitation and 
ventriloquism. He must certainly enjoy these 
singular vocal efforts, since he often wakes up 
oq April and May nights to repeat them. 

His haunts are brushy hillsides and copses, or 
thickets in partial clearings; but he occasionally 
comes into an open space to perform a weird 
clown's dance in the air, twitching and jerking 
and somersaulting with dangling legs. But if he 
catches you watching him he disappears at once 
in the underbrush, and scolds nervously as long 
as you remain in sight. 



Length 7% inches 




The Wood Warblers are a large family, and 
exclusively American. They have been called the 
"most numerous, most beautiful and least 


Length 5 inches 

known' ' birds of North America. Few of them 
really "warble"; their value is in their various 
and delicate beauty, and in the fact that they 
feed almost entirely upon small insects which 
larger birds overlook. The best time to observe 




Length 5% inches 

them is during the spring migration, when they 
travel through the Southeastern states in strag- 
gling flocks made up of several species, flitting 
through woods and orchards from tree to tree — ■ 

such tiny wings to pass, 
even by stages, the thou- 
sands of miles that some- 
times lie between their 
summer and winter homes. 
At this time they may be 
seen in the trees of lawns 
and dooryards, but later in 
the season they retire to the 
woods pretty generally. 
The Yellow Warbler is 
an exception, preferring orchard trees, brushy 
brooks, and quiet gardens, where he is frequently 
mistaken for an escaped Canary, though his only 
song is a happy "wee- 
chee, chee, chee, che wee." 
The nest of this live 
sunbeam is made of fine 
grass and fibres lined with 
thistledown; the eggs are 
thickly speckled. 

This one, and the Palm and Prairie Warblers, 
are three "wood" warblers that are rarely found 
in the woods. The Prairie Warbler frequents 
bushy clearings, or old fields grown up in young 

Length 4% inches 


pines. It is one of the commonest of Southern 


Warblers seek their food in a variety of ways, 
some flitting through the green boughs and 
gleaning from twigs and leaves, some spending 
most of their time on or near the 
ground, others capturing insects 
on the wing like Flycatchers. The 
Black-and- White Creeping War- 
bler gleans over the bark in 
the fashion 



Length 5^4 inches 

a Nuthatch or a 
Creeper, but is 
more restless 
and active, ex- 
ploring every 
crevice, slipping 
round and round 
the tree and 
one of the first 
and one of the 

over the larger boughs. It is 

Warblers to arrive in spring, 

commonest and best known representatives of 

the family, the black and white stripes being 

easy to remember. 

The song is something like the scraping of a 
corn stalk fiddle — feedle-deedle-deedle-dee. Al- 
though this Warbler seeks its living in trees, the 



Length 5 y 2 inches 


nest is on the ground, beside a stump or log or 
under a rock. 


His funny little song, usually described as 
"You must come' to the woods' or you won't see 
me," sounds to me more like "Che-wee, che-wee, 
che-wee, why it's you!" but every ear finds, no 
doubt, a different interpretation of such a hur- 
ried jingle. 

I have watched him go over a whole budding 
maple, whose glutinous juices attracted a horde 
of small dancing insects, from time to time 
uttering this song between bites, and seizing 
whatever came in his way. Sometimes he darted 
out to catch a mouthful on the wing, and each 
time I heard the snap of his tiny beak, as of a 
bit of chalk broken. He is very oddly marked 
with what looks like a black skating helmet 
pulled over his bright yellow head. 


This rather colorless Warbler is surely mis- 
named, since it is as common in several other 
States as in Tennessee, and is not more numer- 
ous there than, for instance, the Prairie Warbler. 
Its color is olive green on the back, with bluish 
gray head; the breast is white; there is a white 
line over the eye. The nest is made of fine vege- 



table fibres and moss, lined with hair, in low 
bushes near the ground. 

Length 5 inches 

The Nashville Warbler may he distinguished 
from the preceding by its brighter colors. The 
breast is bright yellow; there is no line over the 

eye, but a faint chestnut 
patch on the crown. It 
frequents open woods or 
tree-bordered fields and 
clearings. The nest is on 
the ground, usually hid- 
den under a rock or a 


Length 4 % inches clump of leaves. 


A much rarer species which is found on or 
near the ground is the Worm-eating Warbler. It 
may be known by the buff-yellow, black-striped 


Length 5^4 inches 


Very similar in some ways and in coloring 
to the Kentucky Warbler is this black-masked 
beauty. Both birds make their homes in green 
thickets and tangles, but both are curious enough 
to drop from bough to bough and come quite 



close to you if you will keep still, peering at 
you with bright eyes and chirping inquiringly. 

The Yellowthr oat's 
"witchity witchity witch- 
ity" is quite a distinctive 
note, not easily confused 
with that of any other 


The Warbler colors 
are, generally speaking, 
bright yellow, slate gray, 
chestnut, black and white, 
and olive. Sometimes 
nearly all of these are 
laid on the feathers of a single bird, as in the 
tiny Parula. The southern species is at home 
in bayous and swamps where the long tillandsia 
moss, drooping in gray 
webs from the trees, 
forms the most conveni- 
ent of hiding places for 
the almost weightless lit- 
tle nest. 

The Northern variety blackburnian warbler 
is said to be brighter Lengrth 5% inches 

colored. Both occasionally winter on the Gulf 


Length 4% inches 


A still more brilliant example of Warbler 
beauty is the Blackburnian, which, while never a 
common bird in any region, may be found nest- 
ing in the Alleghenies as far south as Georgia. 
So also does the Black-throated Green Warbler. 
Both follow the coniferous forests north and 
south, preferring them for nesting and feeding 

Other prettily colored Warblers are the Blue- 
winged and the Golden-winged, both of whom 
nest on the ground but are sometimes seen feed- 
ing in trees and bushes ; and the black and yellow 
Bachman's Warbler, who is rare and local in dis- 
tribution and seldom seen. 


This shy, colorless Warbler of the wild sweet 
song chooses for its home the most romantic of 
sites. By a woodland brook that flashes white 
and gurgles over mossy boulders, or a mountain 
troutstream, or where some quieter creek steals 
between the roots of giant trees in the valley, 
the nest is hidden under a ledge, a bank, or the 
up-wrenched roots of a fallen tree. In such a 
green cavern, if you keep very still, you may 
catch a glimpse of the Water Thrush — a shadow 
among shadows, ivalking, springing from boulder 
to boulder across the stream, or darting through 
the laurel. 



The instant he sees you he is gone, to watch 
you from a distant log or low bush until you 
leave. He is always in nervous motion, con- 
stantly tilting and weaving his body, so that he 

has been sometimes called 
the Water Wagtail. 


Boys who paddle about 
in canoes or pirogues are 
likely to see this exquisite 
bird at home, its deep 
golden head and neck 
gleaming like a flower 
from the dense shadows 
of trees that overhang 
the water. Its nest is 
made by partly filling a 
hollow stub with moss, 
leaves, and grasses, and hollowing out the top of 
the moss to receive the five or six speckled eggs. 
A dead tree leaning over a stream or pond shore 
may contain several nests of this bird, with those 
of the Chickadee and the Downy Woodpecker at 
the same time, though the last two do not show 
the same preference for willow trees and water. 
In the marshes of Georgia, and less commonly 
throughout the South in cane brakes and green 

Length 6^ inches 



tangles by the water, is found a Warbler whose 
song outshines the plumage of gay-colored spe- 
cies — Swainson's, so little known that he is left 
out of many bird lists altogether. In contrast 

Length 5% inches 

to the Black and White Warbler who lives in 
trees and nests on the ground, Swainson's War- 
bler lives on or near the ground and makes its 
nest in bushes, canes, or palmettos, several feet 
above the ground or the water. 



Another pretty inhabitant of swamps, bayous, 
and wet thickets is the Yellowthroated Warbler, 
one of the smallest of all. It is vividly striped 
with black and white on the sides, and may be 
known by the bib-plastron of bright yellow on 
the throat and breast. The Sycamore Warbler 
is similarly marked, an inhabitant of heavily 
wooded bottom lands. 


His speckled breast makes him look like a 
little Thrush, but when he begins to walk, lifting 
one white-stockinged leg after 
the other so daintily, none can 
mistake him. The spring note 
is also unmistakable. Mr. 
Burroughs has so aptly de- 
scribed it as "teacker-teacher- 
Teachee-TEACHER-T^M Off- 
icii!/' that this wording is 
J^> generally recognized by all 

ovenbird bird students in connection 

Length 6 inches with the YQ ^ 

Why Ovenbird? you may wonder until you 
see the nest, roofed and rounded over like an 
old-fashioned oven or kiln, with the entrance at 
the side. A big structure for so small an archi- 
tect, but so nearly invisible that in order to find 
it you must pursue the tactics of children who 



search for guinea's eggs, possessing your soul in 
patience — and in hiding — till you see the little 
hen slip into it. 

The Ovenbird has another song, finer and 
sweeter than most Warbler strains, but seems 
rarely inspired to utter it, even in the nesting 


Length sy^ inches 


This Warbler is nearly similar to the Black- 
throated Blue (which is not blue, but blue-gray 
or slate color) of more northern range, the prin- 


cipal difference being that Cairn's has black 
spots on the back. The female is of very differ- 
ent feather, dull olive, and apt to puzzle the 
observer; but like the male she has a distinct 
white spot in the middle of the wing that serves 
as a mark of identification. 

This is a true Wood Warbler, and hunts its 
food among the thickest of greenery, building its 
nest in a dense bush near the ground. 


Like the Golden-winged and the Black- 
throated Green Warblers, this restless little 
Warbler dwells among us only by caprice, and 
then chiefly among the mountains or in wooded 
hills. He nests in the bushes and undergrowth, 
keeping himself and his family pretty well hid- 
den after a short visit to our orchards and gar- 
dens, immediately after his arrival in the May 
migration. We may see him either on the ground 
picking up ants, or in the green thicket of leaves 
in pursuit of worms and small insects : a very 
bright and lively fellow, with nearly all the 
Warbler colors patched together in his coat, 
though it is the chestnut side streaks, sometimes 
spoken of as "bloody," that give him his name. 

The song has been cleverly suggested by the 
syllables, "I wish I wish I wish to see Miss 




Though not strictly a ground Warbler, pre- 
ferring to glean along Jmery fence rows and in 
brushy thickets, this bright little fellow like 



Length 5% inches 

many ground Warblers walks instead of hopping. 
He is nearly as well known by his song as by 
his yellow breast; it is a loud clear whistle, 
reminding the listener of certain notes of the 
Carolina Wren, and persistently repeated. 


The nest is rather bulky for so small a 
builder, hidden on the ground, made of leaves 
and strips of bark, and lined with fine fibres and 
horsehair ; there are four or five pretty speckled 

Mr. James Lane Allen, whose understanding 
of the wild creatures of his native State is 
equaled by his knowledge of beautiful English, 
has given the name of The Kentucky "Warbler 
to one of his books. Of the bird itself he says : 

"For over a hundred years the Kentucky 
Warbler has worn the name of the State and has 
carried it all over the world — leading the stu- 
dents of bird life to form some image of a far 
country and to fix their thoughts at least for 
some brief moment on this beautiful spot of the 
earth's surface. As long as he remains in the 
forests of the earth, he will keep the name of 
Kentucky alive, though all else it once meant 
shall have perished and been forgotten. He is 
thus, as nearly as anything in nature can be, 
its winged world-wide emblem, ever young as 
each spring is young, as the green of the woods 
is young. 

"Study the warbler while you may; how long 
he will inhabit the Kentucky forest no one can 
tell. As civilization advances upon the forest, 
the wild species retreat; when the forest falls, 
the wild species are gone — The distant time may 



come, or a nearer, when the Kentucky warbler 
will have vanished like the wild pigeon ; then any 
story of him will be as one of the ancient fables 
of bird life." 


This tiny olive-backed, yellow-breasted War- 
bler not only spends the winter in the middle 
Southern and Gulf states, but sings his soft, 
musical if rather monoto- 
nous trill on pleasant 
days throughout the year. 
As the name implies, he 
is found in pineries, and 
builds his nest in pine 
trees. His song is a trill 
suggesting that of the 
Chipping Sparrow, but 
sweeter in tone. 

After the nesting season is over, Pine War- 
blers, being like most Warblers quite friendly 
with other species, are sometimes found in com- 
pany with a few Yellow Palm and Myrtle War- 
blers. The last named is hardy enough to winter 
with us occasionally; but the Yellow Palm War- 
bler is a familiar sight in fields and roadsides, 
and even in the streets of Southern towns, during 
the months when most of these bright little fel- 
lows are away in the West Indies, Mexico, and 

Length 5% inches 


South America. He even comes into porches 
like the Chippy Sparrow. So fidgety and rest- 
less are his motions as to earn for him the name 
of Wagtail. 

Those mentioned are only a part of the "War- 
blers to be found in our woods, marshes, and 
fields ; to enumerate them all would be confusing 
within the limits of a non-scientific book. There 
are some fifty-odd Warblers in the eastern por- 
tion of the United States, and nearly all of them 
are to be seen in the Southern States at one 
time or another, especially during migration. 
Concerning many of them little Las been learned 
as yet. They are highly various and interesting, 
and well repay the closest and most earnest 



How many children who enjoy feeding Polly 
on her perch and hearing her ludicrous imita- 
tions of the talk and other sounds around her, 
ever dream that there is a wild Parrot numbered 
among our native birds? Not so accomplished a 
linguist, but quite as brightly colored and curi- 
ously formed, is this pretty Poll of the woods 
whom so few of us have ever seen: its head and 
neck being yellow and orange, and the rest of its 
plumage green. 

This Paroquet was once an abundant bird 
throughout the Southern States. How it would 
delight us today to see a pair of them, about 
as large as a Dove, clambering parrot-fashion 
among the branches of our trees; or to be 
allowed a peep at two white eggs in a Paroquet 
nest! But that is not to be. In order to find 
one of these birds today it would be necessary 
to search thoroughly the remotest and loneliest 
counties of Florida, where the rarer wild species 
are making their last stand in the struggle for 
existence, in dense "hammocks" of tropical 
growth surrounded and protected by the silence 
of the Everglades. Here also the Roseate Spoon^ 



bill, the Flamingo, the egrets, and the Ivorybilled 
Woodpecker spread their beautiful wings yet a 
little time unmolested. 

Let the disappearance of these winged lives 
from their one-time haunts lead us to set a 
higher value on those that remain. 


Have you not heard old people tell of the 
great flocks of Wild or Passenger Pigeons that 
used to bridge the sky like a summer cloud? 
This bird, once so abundant in this country that 
w r hole boatloads of the bodies were sold in New r 
York markets at one cent apiece, is now but a 
memory, like the American Buffalo w r hose once 
innumerable herds have vanished from our plains. 

No wings of the earth were swifter, stronger, 
and more graceful than those of this Pigeon in 
flight. It was larger by several inches than the 
Mourning Dove, and more erect and active. Its 
colors were brighter and its whole habit and 
bearing more energetic. 

James Lane Allen, who has written so charm- 
ingly of the Cardinal and of other Southern 
birds, recalls to us as follows this well-nigh for- 
gotten glory of our land : 

"What Wilson records he saw of bird-life 
in Kentucky a hundred years ago reads to us 
now as fables of the marvelous, of the incredible 


Let me tell you that I in my boyhood — half 

a century later than Wilson's visit to Kentucky 
— beheld things that you will hardly believe. 

"The vast oak forest of Kentucky was what 
attracted the Passenger Pigeon. In the autumn 
when acorns were ripe, but not yet fallen, the 
pigeons filled the trees at times and places, eat- 
ing them from the cups. Walking quietly some 
sunny afternoon through the bluegrass pastures, 
you might approach an oak and see nothing but 
the tree itself, thick bough with the afternoon 
sunlight sparkling on the leaves along one side. 
As you drew nearer, all at once, as if some vio- 
lent explosion had taken place within the tree, 
a blue smoke-like cloud burst out all along the 
tree-top — the simultaneous flight of the startled 
pigeons. Or all night long there might be wind 
and rain and the swishing of boughs and the 
tapping of loosened leaves against the window 
panes; and when you stepped out of doors next 
morning, it had suddenly become clear and cold. 
Walking out into the open and looking up at the 
clear sky you might see this : an arch of pigeons, 
breast by breast, wing-tip to wing-tip, high up 
in the air as the wild geese fly, slowly moving 
southward. You could not see the end of the 
arch on one horizon or the other; the whole 
firmament was spanned by that mighty arch of 
pigeons flying south from the sudden cold. Not 


all the forces of nature can restore to Kentucky 
that morning sunlit arch of pigeons flying south. \ f 

They are forever gone! The laws at that 
time gave them no protection, because it was con- 
sidered that they were so numerous that the 
inroads of man could have no appreciable effect 
upon such countless numbers. Wilson, writing 
about 1808, estimated that the flock observed by 
him near Frankfort contained over two billion 
birds, and a nesting colony near Shelbyville in 
the same State extended through the woods for 
nearly forty miles, the trees being loaded with 

During the next ninety years, the slaughter 
of the birds went on unchecked. Pigeons were 
netted and shot by thousands and shipped by 
carloads and trainloads into the markets, or even 
fed to hogs. Hunters, taking their families along 
in wagons, camped near the nesting grounds, and 
with clubs and fires and sulphur pots killed par- 
ents and squabs on the nests. Boys and women 
without guns beat the birds down with brushy 
poles as they circled about bewildered by the 
smoke and shouting. At one nesting place in 
Michigan, 500 netters were at work, their catch 
averaging 200,000 birds apiece ; at another it was 
estimated that fully a billion pigeons were taken. 

Suddenly people noticed that Wild Pigeons 
were no longer plentiful. The buffalo went "all 


at once." So "all at once" disappeared the 
well-known flocks from their native sky. They 
must, it was argued, have become tired of the 
yearly disturbance and gone farther into the 
unsettled forest to roost and to breed. They 
would come back some day. But that is not the 
way birds live. Remember that birds do not 
change their yearly nesting locations to any 
great extent. Their return to the same spot may 
be fatal, but return they must and will. A spe- 
cies persecuted to disappearance from a given 
locality has not moved elsewhere, but is killed 
out of that particular region; and if its flocks 
be undergoing everywhere a similar extermina- 
tion, it means that this species is slowly but 
surely vanishing from the face of the earth. 

The last recorded nesting of Passenger Pig- 
eons occurred in Michigan in 1881. The last 
wild specimens of which we have any definite 
record were shot (of course!) in 1898. Eight 
birds were kept for some years in the Cincinnati 
Zoological Park; but they are too free and active 
by nature to thrive in captivity, and the last 
widowed survivor of the whole race died Sep- 
tember 1, 1914. 

Rewards of several thousands of dollars have 
since been offered without bringing to light a 
single living specimen of this superb member of 
the Dove family. We can never call back the 


pigeon or the buffalo. But it is not too late to 
learn from the mistakes of our fathers, and 
though we have lost some valuable species, we 
may yet save others that are following these to 

Note to Teacher 

The student should have a careful training on 
on the points of observation according to the 
directions given in the Introduction, pages 5 and 
6. If possible procure at least one good field 
glass for the use of the school. Careful obser- 
vations should be made and notes written imme- 
diately. Even without the use of the field glass 
any sharp-eyed boy or girl can readily make 
most of these observations. After your notes 
are arranged in the best possible way, the most 
important of them should be written in ink as 
permanent records on the following blank pages. 
In addition, it is advisable that the pupil pro- 
cure a suitable note-book for a permanent record 
of all birds observed. Furthermore it is impor- 
tant that there be discussions by the class of 
such questions as : 

Why Birds Should Be Protected; How We- 
May Protect the Birds; What We Can Do to 
Attract Birds about Our Homes. 

A society for the study and protection of 
birds may be arranged.